ARRL

Contest Update Issues

Preview
The ARRL Contest Update
December 10, 2008
Editor: Ward Silver, NØAX
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IN THIS ISSUE

NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO

The 10 Meter contest is a great opportunity for Technician licensees to use their HF privileges as described in this ARRL Web item. Antennas can be simple dipoles or mobile whips. You'll be surprised when stations appear on the lowest 500 kHz of the band beginning Friday at 0000Z! Hmmm...is the band only open during contests?

BULLETINS

Page 85 of December 2008 QST has an abbreviated announcement for the ARRL DX contests. It says USA/VE stations should send ARRL/RAC sections. This is a mistake - W/VE stations should send their State or Province in the ARRL DX Contest, just as they always have. No rule changes have been made. (Thanks, Steve K4FJ and ARRL Contest Branch Manager, Sean KX9X)

BUSTED QSOS

NS3T's Web site name has a hyphen - www.radio-sport.net -omitted last time and the 'www' is required, as well. Steve W9DX notes that the correct link for the story on WLS Chicago is www.wlshistory.com with no capital letters.

The Edmonton fireball video link published in the previous issue was reported pulled from YouTube due to copyright infringement. The video has been reposted - properly credited this time - on the Astronomy Picture Of the Day site. (Thanks, John K8AJS)

CONTEST SUMMARY

Rules follow Commentary section

December 13-14

  • ARRL 10 Meter Contest
  • North American Meteor Scatter Contest - Digital (Dec 11-15)
  • 28 MHz SWL Contest
  • PSK Death Match
  • Russian 160 Meter Contest
  • Croatian CW Contest
  • Great Colorado Snowshoe Run - CW

December 20-21

  • OK DX RTTY Contest
  • Lighthouse Christmas Lights QSO Party
  • Holiday Spirits Homebrew Sprint - CW
NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST

Kevin W9GKA has published a growing document called "On the Ultra-Highs", a collection of VHF istorical notes that makes for fascinating reading about the "opening" of the amateur bands above shortwave. The first six chapters cover experimental and amateur activities from the 1800's through 1941, with pictures, footnotes, extensive references and the like. It is in outline format beyond that point, but Kevin anticipates continuing to expand it with text and pictures. He welcomes your contributions!

Aw, shucks--the pen behind the much-enjoyed tales of Hashafisti Scratchi in CQ Magazine many years ago has run out of ink forever. George Floyd, Jr WA4DGA (ex-W2RYT) wrote many whimsical tales of Scratchi's exploits around "Feenix". First appearing in 1947, Scratchi made regular appearances in the magazine through 1971. This leaves the inestimable Dr Emil Heisseluft as the pre-eminent unknown humorist in the ham radio press.

Don't forget to browse the 3830 Soapbox compilations on Dink N7WA's Web site. The CQ WW contests are well-represented as are the ARRL Sweepstakes weekends.

West Mountain Radio has a product every Rover and mobile station will wish they had at one time or another - the Automatic Power Off Switch. Installed between the vehicle's power system and the radio, when voltage drops below a settable threshold for longer than the time limit, the solid-state switch opens and stays open. So you can't run your battery all the way down by leaving the radio on or working the pileup for too long. Unfortunately, it can't do anything about leaving the headlights on.

Pete N4ZR wondered why the ARRL counts 14 VE provinces and territories, while the RAC and the Canadian Government consider Newfoundland and Labrador to be one entity? ARRL Contest Branch Manager, Sean KX9X took a big gulp of morning coffee and looked it up. "Newfoundland-Labrador was admitted into Canada in 1949. At that time, the format for the ARRL DX Contest was that ALL stations sent a signal report and transmitted power, not just the DX stations. Beginning in 1955, the ARRL DX Contest rules changed so that W/VE stations sent their state or province. From the very first event, Newfoundland and Labrador were separate multipliers."

The current position by many contest sponsors is "log the dupes!" if you are in the vast majority of contesters using computer logging. Software used for scoring handles the dupes automatically so that both stations receive proper credit for the contact. No penalty is assessed! (Paper logs may be handled differently, so check the rules, you pencil-pushers!) If your logging software does not log dupes, please contact its author and ask for that to be changed.

Jim AD1C has reorganized the Contest Country Files Web site, although content is still the 1 December version. Access to the files is now organized by logging software type, rather than file type. Installation instructions are included with the downloaded file. (Thanks, Jim AD1C)

The amateur community in India is becoming more and more visible world-wide. Varadan VU3ITI has sent news of "Hamfest India 2009" to be held in Bangalore in November of 2009. The convention will have technical and operating presentations and many international visitors are expected.

Do you think being a Ham has taught you world geography? Larry K8UT and Bill N8KF suggest this simple,on-line geography quiz that works by dragging the country names into the correct locations on this map of the Middle East. Once you finish the puzzle, you will be far more educated about this very intense part of our world.

Can a ham joke be classified as a shaggy-dog story? Is a limerick about ham radio doggerel? If so, it's surely in this compendium of ham humor by Jerry VE6CNU.

Jerry VE6CNU sent me a copy of his new ham humor book, "Hogwash For Hamsters: A Light-hearted Look at the Hobby of Amateur Radio" and I found it full of good yarns, rhymes, and riddles adapted to the hamster's world. Some you'll have heard before and in other contexts, but they'll bring a smile.

From the 23 November edition of the mini-AIR (Annals of Irreproducible Results) come the following "Random Question A": What is your favorite random number? Please write the number on a piece of paper. Fold the paper lengthwise. Now fold it again. Now fold it again. Now fold it again. Put the paper your pocket. Obtain a second piece of paper. On it, write the answer to this question: What is wrong with Question A? Put the second paper your pocket, but do not fold it. Please await further instructions.

Web Site of the Week - In support of the Grid Pirates (K8GP) publishing all of their logs, Andy K1RA has created the VHF Scores and Logs Web site for publishing logs of ARRL VHF+ contests. The Grid Pirates will be posting all their past and future ARRL VHF+ contest logs online in the belief that fully opening the reporting of all contest data is the best way encourage more activity, analytical interest and insight into this exciting sport. You are encouraged to send your own logs, even paper ones, to the repository.

WORD TO THE WISE

Unstable - A word that could apply to a signal, a tower, an operator...or a log. What happens when a station doesn't consistently give their exchange (or call sign) the same way every time? When log checkers detect a lot of errors coming from such a log, it is likely to be declared "unstable" so that no penalties are assessed to the stations claiming contacts with that station. (This doesn't happen with all contests, but the larger ones are more likely to have the necessary log checking resources.)

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

Writing on QRZ.com, G4TUT sends news of Ham Radio Tube, a Web site with various clips of films, movies, and video related to radio of all sorts. At the top of the list today is a film about the activating of the gi-normous Jim Creek VLF transmitter. Hours of fun! The site is occasionally reported as having technical issues, but be patient.

Did you work OX5AA in the CQ WW CW contest? Ian G3WVG and Nigel G3TXF made 5000 QSOs as a two-op Multi-Two entry using the OX2A club station near Kangerlussuaq (can I have that phonetically, please?). I was thinking, "Must be cold up there!" Little did I know that they were doing antenna work at -20 degrees C! Nigel's made a nice Web page with lots of pictures and yes, it's cold! (Thanks, Tim K3LR)

Can you find which three of this post-prandial quintet also appear in the W2PA collection? Shown after a successful CQ WW CW are some calls that should be familiar - (L-R) K1DG, N9RV, KM3T, K1EA, and K1AR. (Photo Director - N9RV)

There are some good photographs of guys you may recognize from the contest suites at the Dayton Hamvention - except you'll have to imagine them a little trimmer or a little more or less hirsute. ARRL Web puzzleologist Chris W2PA's collection of photos from 1973 on includes some famous calls, too! (Thanks, Doug K1DG)

There is something about a science-related video that fascinates the not-so-latent technologist in hams. Here are Wired magazine's Top 10 videos on Chemistry, Biology, and Physics. I just can't decide whether my favorite is "Shrimp Jogging", the "Musical Tesla Coil", or "Elephant Toothpaste". Enjoy!

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RESULTS AND RECORDS

Don't forget to add your contribution to the ARRL Sweepstakes Soapbox! There will be special recognition of entries representing the best, funniest, worst excuse, and more in the 2008 Sweepstakes writeups by N2IC and VE4XT.

Ali A71BX runs the pileup fast and furious from the beachfront "Field Day Style" operation of A73A in the recent CQ WW CW contest. (Photo K5GN)

And how many Clean Sweeps were there? Preliminary log checking so far gives nearly 250 on CW and 290 on Phone! (Thanks, ARRL Contest Branch Manager, Sean KX9X)

A conversation with Mark K6UFO led me to this workaround for finding ARRL Soapbox postings from stations in a specific category. The Soapbox Web page is only searchable by call, but the searchable database for the contest (available to ARRL members only) can be searched by category. Once you have the list of stations, click on the any call sign shown as a hyperlink to see the Soapbox entry.

So you entered CQ WW seriously on one band and played around on the others for fun. How do you submit your log? From CQ WW Committee member Doug KR2Q, "The key is to clearly define your CATEGORY OF ENTRY in the Cabrillo file header. That's what we use. If the header says, "20 meter monoband," your log will be scored that way, irrespective of what other bands may be included in your entry." Doug also reminds us to submit the entire log every time because each subsequent submission overwrites all previous submissions. This advice holds true for ARRL contests, as well. So submit your single-band log with all contest QSOs included and with your single-band category in the header.

Preliminary Russian DX Contest results have been published. This is of particular interest to contesters chasing points for the WRTC-2010 operator evaluation system. (Thanks, Steve N2IC)

CQ WPX Contest Manager, Randy K5ZD, notes there are a number of unsponsored high-profile WPX plaques. If you are interested (donating a plaque costs $50) and can make arrangements with Doug K1DG (k1dg@cqwpx.com) by December 15, he can still include your plaque in the magazine results (and you can make some worthy contester very happy).

Are you a member of a new contest club or perhaps your club name wasn't recognized by the log email robot program? For the CQ WW contests, send an email with the club name to cw-questions@cqww.com. In most cases, it's nothing more than adding the club name to a master list maintained by the log checkers. For other contests, a club officer or contest manager should get the note.

If it seems like electronic submission of logs is getting easier and smoother, you're right. Within a very few hours of recent major contests, both CQ and ARRL are reporting thousands of logs have been submitted. Contest volunteers have created the automated system of log-handling that makes it all possible. It would be hard to imagine going back to the old days of diskettes and paper! Next time you encounter one of those committee members at a convention or meeting, say thank you!

OPERATING TIP

If you find yourself drowning in an sea of "packet pileup" callers, don't despair! Make a note of the frequency (or add the station to your band map) and come back ten or fifteen minutes later. Many times, you'll find the pileup dissipated enough to make the contact on the first call! In the meantime you can be tuning around the frequency, frequently finding unspotted contacts. Many is the time I've tuned away from a roaring pileup to find another multiplier--sometimes from the same location--CQ-ing to very few callers.

TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION

Imagine a CW "dit" that lasts for just a femtosecond! And it's not even the start of the NA Sprint! No contests are yet scheduled in the wide swath of Terahertz spectrum between millimeter-wave and infra-red, but researchers are begin to explore applications for those signals. This story from Physorg.com discusses how THz waves interact with matter and how they are likely to be used initially. We're already using radio at frequencies that were "science fiction" not long ago, so stay tuned for interesting developments at 300 GHz...and beyond!

Pat W7TMT directs us to the Web site of K7MEM that offers a variety of on-line calculators. Amongst them is a calculator that allows you to calculate the required inductance and dimensions for each side of a loaded dipole based on coil position. It also includes several ways to generate details for winding the coil itself based on diameter, L/D ratio etc.

One ham-radio spinoff of the surging development of electric cars is the improvement in the energy storage capability of batteries. This Technology Review article discusses one such improvement, increasing the surface area of battery electrodes by using "nanoporous silicon". Field Day and hilltopping can only benefit!

Paul WY7I's Colorado QTH is featured on the cover of the RSGB's December RadCom. Just the thing for the holiday season! (Photo WY7I)

Here's a problem we should all have - a too-tall tower! Actually, these can be a problem to use as 160 meter verticals, but you might be able to feed the tower using elevated, sloping radials. This arrangement is described in Tom N4KG's article in the June 1994 QST. The article also lists some good references. (Thanks, Chas N5UL)

When adding equipment to the shack (does anyone ever REMOVE equipment?) it's often necessary to also add a shelf or stand. If you go to the office supply store, you can find itmes designed specifically for electronics and computer equipment, but they tend to carry premium prices. A less expensive source may be your local department store's "Housewares" aisle. For example, the local Wal-Mart had plastic 6"x6" "mini-crates" for $1 that could be easily glued together into a very nice platform with storage. Nearby were plastic sets of drawers - good for adaptors and stuff - for a few dollars more. Craft stores are also great sources of volume-priced stuff that does just fine in the shack.

A short "gift" item in the November IEEE Spectrum caught my eye - the observation that within each 9 V battery are six 1.5 V AAAA cells. These cells are a little shorter than AAA's and those inside the 9 V package aren't labeled for polarity, but in the time-honored tradition of ham frugality, these cells can be put to work in various low-power applications.

Bob W6TR recommends the Web site of Matthew KK5DR for information on amplifiers - building them, testing them, designing them. And the site is definitely packed full! I found myself browsing quite a few of the site's articles and thinking, "You know, I should build an amplifier..."

Another resource for amplifier builders can be found in past issues of Ham Radio. Bill Orr W6SAI-SK wrote a series of articles entitled, "Design Considerations For Linear Amplifiers," in the June, July, and August 1979 issues. The basics in these articles still applies and would come in handy to amplifier builders. It was also published as Eimac's Amateur Service Bulletin AS53. (Thanks, Eddy VE3CUI/VE3XZ and Peter G3RZP)

Paul K5AF sends this method for making a cheap lightweight mast, "Use the thinnest schedule PVC pipe you can find, buy a can of "Great Stuff", make a telescoping mast about 28' long with three diameters of PVC, drill a small hole every foot and shoot the Great Stuff in, let it harden and you have a very rigid mast for Inverted-Vees and other wire antennas. If you wish, you can even embed ladder line in the mast before you shoot the foam inside, from what I can tell, Great Stuff has pretty decent dielectric properties."

When rebuilding or refilling an oil-cooled dummy load, such as a Heath Cantenna or MFJ-250, be sure to use the manufacturer's recommended type of oil. Mineral oil can be obtained from feed stores or aircraft maintenance facilities. Transformer oil is a little less common, but can be ordered by the gallon from MFJ Enterprises. (Thanks, Bob N7XY and Roger K8RI)

Ed W2RF is developing a CW Skimmer application called RigSync that integrates output from the automated decoder with the WriteLog logging software. RigSync works with both Windows XP and Vista.

Besser Associates has published a neat on-line Smith Chart applet. You can build a circuit, including stubs, and see impedance transformations take place on the chart. Fun for practice!

If you have AM broadcast stations anywhere in your vicinity, tuning low-band antennas can be a real pain as the AM energy can be strong enough to upset the measurement circuitry of many SWR analyzers. This is discussed in the article "Tips for Tuning a Full-Size 160 Meter Vertical" by Jay WX0B in the Nov/Dec issue of National Contest Journal magazine. Jay recommends a W3NQN broadcast band reject filter - the schematic for this filter can be found in the ARRL Handbook. Jay also notes that external filters add phase and amplitude effects to signals passing through them and these effects must be accounted for in the measurements.

Technical Web Site of the Week - Gee, how can you go wrong with a company named United Nuclear? Through the Make magazine newsletter, I found out about this cool company that has a little bit of everything for the scientific hobbyist, teacher, or bright young person. The lab supplies section is an endless browse - I want a cork boring machine! And you'll love the animated graphic that asks, "Looking for some Uranium?"

CONVERSATION

Put Your Pencils Down

Technology abounds in the shacks of contest operators--databases, recorders, automated call sign decoders, to name a few--but it can't guarantee that every piece of information will be logged correctly. Erors creep in from every chink in the accuracy armor, even typos have cost many a QSO at log-checking time. Knowing that one's log is very likely imperfect and with the log submission deadline days away, the temptation to polish it a little (or a lot) is strong and the competitive drive can make one's ethics weak. CQ WPX Manager and Contest Hall of Fame member Randy Thompson K5ZD weighed in on the subject this week after watching some post-contest discussion of call signs on the cq-contest reflector. Let's listen to what he has to say...(this post is also available as contesting.com Article 45.)

"Two calls...have been discussed on the cq-contest reflector in the past days. People were more than happy to point out these calls were incorrect and what the correct call was... I was very disappointed and concerned by that.

"What is contesting? It is a competition between operators. This competition involves working stations on the air during the contest period. Part of working stations is recording them accurately in the log.

"When the contest is over the participants submit their log (the record of their activity) to the contest sponsor. The sponsor checks the logs and publishes the results. Some people are declared winners, but everyone is also able to compete with themselves and measure their own improvement.

"Seems pretty simple...

"If contesters sit around after the contest and compare their logs with others in order to make corrections to what they copied, is that within the spirit of the competition? You are still competing to work stations, but accuracy is no longer being tested. Same is true if you use other means after the contest to correct your log (looking at DX Summit records, listening to audio recordings, etc.).

"In the "old days" ops would write their log using pencil and paper. They would then have to manually go back through and dupe the log. During this process they would correct errors they found or make the text easier to read. This process took time and is a big part of the reason there is a 30 day period to submit logs. It also led to this perception that correcting logs after the contest was OK.

"Today, we keep our log on computer. At most we should scan through the log looking for typos and fixing anything we made a note of during the contest. These corrections should be done by you based on your own review and knowledge of the log. Not as a group effort or using outside tools!

"It's ok if you didn't get every call or exchange correct. Yes, your score may be reduced by the log checkers. That's part of the competition. Request your log check report after the results are published and study it. If you confuse certain letters on phone or CW you know what to work on during the next contest. It's called improving your skills and should be the most satisfying part of contesting.

"Do contesting and yourself a favor--follow the rules and work the contest as best you can. Put your log in the proper format. Send it in as quickly as possible after the contest. The result will be an honest and fair competition that can be used to measure your skills against others and yourself.

"And if anyone asks you to confirm a call that was worked in the contest, just say no. Encourage them to do the right thing and send in their log as it recorded their activity."

This and related subjects were also addressed by CQ Contest Committee member Doug KR2Q in a May 1996 article in National Contest Journal magazine. The ARRL Contest Advisory Committee has published a set of guidelines for HF contest operating, too. To be sure, there is nothing wrong with analyzing and reviewing your log to improve your accuracy, operating strategy, understanding of propagation, and so forth. That's part of the continual and life-long path to the Top Ten. But understand that what you discover applies to the NEXT contest.

73, Ward N0AX

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CONTESTS

10 December through 23 December

An expanded, downloadable version of QST's Contest Corral in PDF format is available. Check the sponsor's Web site for information on operating time restrictions and other instructions.

HF CONTESTS

ARRL 10 Meter Contest--Phone,CW, from 13 Dec 0000Z to 14 Dec 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 28. Exchange: RS(T), and State/Prov or serial. Logs due: 7 Jan. Rules

28 MHz SWL Contest--Phone,CW, from 13 Dec 0000Z to 14 Dec 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 28. Exchange: Log ARRL 10 Meter Contest QSOs. Logs due: 31 Jan. Rules

PSK Death Match--Digital, from 13 Dec 0000Z to 14 Dec 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28, 50. Exchange: Name and S/P/C. Logs due: 20 Jan. Rules

Russian 160 Meter Contest--Phone,CW, from 13 Dec 0000Z to 13 Dec 0200Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8. Exchange: RS(T), serial, square ID (see Web site). Logs due: 21 Jan. Rules

Croatian CW Contest--CW, from 13 Dec 1400Z to 14 Dec 1400Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST and serial. Logs due: 30 days. Rules

Great Colorado Snowshoe Run--CW, from 14 Dec 2100Z to 14 Dec 2259Z. Bands (MHz): 14. Exchange: RST, S/P/C, class, CQC number or power. Logs due: 30 days. Rules

OK DX RTTY Contest--Digital, from 20 Dec 0000Z to 20 Dec 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST and CQ Zone. Logs due: 15 Jan. Rules

Lighthouse Christmas Lights QSO Party--Phone,CW, from 20 Dec 0001Z to 4 Jan 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28, 50,144, CW--1.83,3.53,7.03,14.03,21.03,28.03;SSB--1.97,3.97,7.27,14.27,21.37,28.37. Exchange: Serial or ARLHS number. Logs due: 31 Jan. Rules

Holiday Spirits Homebrew Sprint--CW, from 21 Dec 2000Z to 21 Dec 2400Z. Bands (MHz):1.8-28 QRP calling frequencies (see Web site). Exchange: RST, S/P/C, ARCI number or Power. Logs due: 30 days. Rules

VHF+ CONTESTS

North American Meteor Scatter--Digital, from 11 Dec 0000Z to 15 Dec 0700Z. Bands (MHz): 50-432. Exchange: Both calls, grid square, and acknowledge. Logs due: 15 Jan. Rules

PSK Death Match--Digital, from 13 Dec 0000Z to 14 Dec 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28, 50. Exchange: Name and S/P/C. Logs due: 20 Jan. Rules

Lighthouse Christmas Lights QSO Party--Phone,CW, from 20 Dec 0001Z to 4 Jan 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28, 50,144, CW--1.83,3.53,7.03,14.03,21.03,28.03;SSB--1.97,3.97,7.27,14.27,21.37,28.37. Exchange: Serial or ARLHS number. Logs due: 31 Jan. Rules

LOG DUE DATES

10 December through 23 December

December 13 - Wake-Up! QRP Sprint, email logs to: ru-qrp-club@mail.ru, paper logs and diskettes to: (none). Find rules at: http://qrp.ru/modules/sections/index.php?op=viewarticle&artid=7&page=1

December 14 - High Speed Club CW Contest, email logs to: hsccontest@googlemail.com, paper logs and diskettes to: Jo Mertens, DJ4EY, HSC Contest Manager, Am Muhlebruch 32, 59581 Warstein, Germany. Find rules at: http://www.fmcnet.de/hsc/en/contests.html

December 15 - WAE DX Contest, RTTY, email logs to: waertty@dxhf.darc.de, paper logs and diskettes to: (none). Find rules at: http://www.darc.de/referate/dx/xedcwr.htm

December 16 - ARRL EME Contest, email logs to: EMEcontest@arrl.org, paper logs and diskettes to: EME Contest, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111, USA. Find rules at: http://www.arrl.org/contests/rules/2008/eme.html

December 16 - EU PSK63 QSO Party, email logs to: ut7fp@srars.org, paper logs and diskettes to: (none). Find rules at: http://eu.srars.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=66&Itemid=141

December 17 - ARRL Sweepstakes Contest, SSB, email logs to: SSPhone@arrl.org, paper logs and diskettes to: November SS Phone, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111, USA. Find rules at: http://www.arrl.org/contests/rules/2008/novss.html

December 17 - NA Collegiate ARC Championship, SSB, email logs to: SSPhone@arrl.org, email log summary to: wm5r@wm5r.org, paper logs and diskettes to: November SS Phone, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111, USA. Find rules at: http://www.collegiatechampionship.org/rules/

December 23 - LZ DX Contest, email logs to: lzdxc@yahoo.com, paper logs and diskettes to: BFRA, PO Box 830, 1000 Sofia, Bulgaria. Find rules at: http://lzdx.bfra.org/index.php/rules

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

ARRL Contest Update wishes to acknowledge information from WA7BNM's Contest Calendar and SM3CER's Contest Calendar.

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