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Contest Update Issues

The ARRL Contest Update
June 29, 2016
Editor: Paul Bourque, N1SFE

This Thursday evening to Friday evening in the US time zones, there will be plenty of activity in the RAC Canada Day contest. Commemorating Canada's Confederation, CW and phone modes are encouraged, including AM and FM on bands where appropriate. Check out the 2016 rules, then plan your operation. For four hours on Friday evening, you can work on your CW in the FISTS Slow-speed Sprint. Speeds 13 WPM and slower are encouraged, and a log submission could earn you a prize. As July 2 and 3 is Independence Day weekend, the domestic contest calendar is otherwise light.

The weekend of July 9 and 10, the IARU HF Championship contest will be prime. CW and Phone can be used, singly or mixed, depending on your entry category. Remember that if you're entering multi in this contest, only one transmitted signal is allowed at a time. IARU Headquarter stations, ITU zones, and certain IARU personnel are multipliers.

For a downloadable list of the 2016 IARU Headquarter stations, see the item in the News section below.


NG3K requests that if you're participating in the RSGB IOTA 2016 contest using a special call sign, or will be fielding a DXpedition, to please provide this information to his website, so that it can be announced to the IOTA list.


Jonesy, W3DHJ, noted that I typo'd Radio in the last issue, but was kind enough to leave open the possibility that I meant "Whirling" in Malagasy.


Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

June 30

July 1

July 2

July 3

July 4

July 5

July 6

July 7

July 8

July 9

July 10

July 13


If you're participating in the IARU Contest July 9 and 10, you can find a list of IARU headquarter stations compiled and publicized by Joe, OZ0J and Bob, N6TV. At the time of this writing, the link still points to 2015 stations. It will be updated with 2016 information in the next few days. Make sure that you download the most up to date version just before contest start, as changes are likely.

Array Solutions announces the RA-S1 Universal Digital Rotator Controller [Courtesy of Array Solutions]

Array Solutions has announced two new products that may be useful in an automated contest station. The RA-S1 Universal Digital Rotator controller claims manual or automatic control of nearly any rotator brand and model. Manual positioning is possible via knob and button, and it can also be controlled via the popular Yaesu G232A protocol through the built-in serial or USB port. The RAM-34 Pre-amplifier system is designed to make operation on 160 meters through 40 meters easier, more reliable, and more controllable by combining switching, filtering, preamplification, and attenuation functions into one unit. Settings can be kept per-band, and functionality is also controllable via the Shacklan network interface.

Imagine if you could drop by the shacks, or garages, of some amateur radio operators that are specialists in a particular area, for example contesting, of VHF/UHF operation, and you could ask them anything you like. This is the concept behind the monthly paid website Randy, K5ZD, is currently taking contest-related questions.

Scientists have found bacteria that directly live off of electricity. They were found by looking in locations that are rich in minerals, but poor in typical bacterial foodstuffs, for example a gold mine. Now, if we can just get them to copy CW!

Scott, N3FJP, announces the availability of Amateur Contact Log 5.6, as well as updates to all his contest logging programs. The list of new features and capabilities is long, and includes improvements in API functionality and the sharing of CW sending between applications. Of particular note to contesters is Scott's explanation of his change of opinion on call history databases, resulting in implementation of call history functions. You can read all about it in his announcement.

Bizarre lightning phenomena have occasionally been described in discussions involving antennas, towers, and grounding. One type is 'ball lightning' which generally describes an observation of a spherical glowing shape of light associated with traditional lightning conditions. Hypotheses have been developed that link the cause of ball lighting to plasmas or clouds of very small particles, and a new article in Nature proposes that ball lightning consists of confined bubble of intense microwave radiation. If ball lightning is explained by this theory, protecting against it would present challenges beyond those of conventional lightning. Ball lightning has been observed to pass through glass, form inside of closed rooms, or inside of metal-skinned aircraft. Additional protective measures would be necessary to deal with any strong microwave component.

Bob, K8IA, analyzed the values of the exchange used by operators he worked in the recent All Asian DX CW Contest. As this number is supposed to be the age of the operator, it appears to mirror the operator age demographics noted by the CQ WW Contest survey.

The Potomac Valley Radio Club (PVRC) recently received an ARRL Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Service to the Amateur Radio Community. ARRL Section Manager Marty Pittinger, KB3MXM, presented the award to PVRC President Bud, W3LL, with Tom Abernethy, W3TOM, ARRL Atlantic Division Director in attendance.

Dave, K1NYK, enjoyed the positive tone in the recent ARS Technica article on Amateur Radio, which likened characteristics of our community to members of the Maker movement.


Pack Roving

Pack Roving is a technique that mobile or portable VHF/UHF contest stations use to take advantage of particular multiplier scoring rules in a contest. It involves multiple rover stations moving in concert and making contacts with one another while visiting new grid squares. Depending on a particular contest's rules, if four rovers each visit a different grid square, work each other, then change position to a new grid square six times, each rover could earn six multipliers plus eighteen contacts per band. Some contests also count grid square visits as a multiplier. As rovers are often equipped with multiple bands, scores can add up quickly. Roving techniques and contest rules have co-evolved through the years. The Southern California Contest Club has used this technique with great success, and N6NB's roving website provides some historical perspective.


Eric, NO3M, built and operated a replica 1930's era transmitter paired with a 1950's receiver for Field Day 2016, using the call W8CDX. [Photo courtesy of WA3TTS]

Eric, NO3M, built a replica 1930's era transmitter from scratch for 2016 field day, and was using it under the call W8CDX. Featuring a four-tube exciter and 203A amplifier stage, he eventually achieved over 100 watts output. One cannot help thinking that we take modern gear too much for granted as he describes using hand capacitance to zero-beat the transmitter to the stations worked. Eric's article includes links to additional pictures, and WA3TTS's video of the transmitter in operation. Eric and friends had such a blast that they're going to be adding 20 and 80 meters next year, and operate the entire weekend.

An EF0 Tornado caused this damage to the 10 meter tower on June 21st at W3LPL. [Courtesy of W3LPL, via Facebook]

This is a sight you do NOT want to see. Frank, W3LPL, experienced an EF0 tornado on June 21, which caused the failure of this 200-foot AB-105 tower. Frank intends to have its replacement in the air by the fall.


The 2015 ARRL RTTY Roundup and 2015 ARRL 10 meter Full Results articles had minor changes which are now reflected on the website.

New scores have been incorporated into the qualification standings for WRTC-2018. IARU Region 1 Field Day scores have been taken into account.


Shorten your CQs

Under most circumstances, keep your CQs brief. Any potential callers are going to tune to your frequency, hear your CQ message, and decide whether to call you based on how workable you are. Workability is subjective. Unless you're a multiplier or valuable in points, potential callers probably won't hang around for slow or sloppy sending, or anything that indicates the potential to waste time, like a long CQ. Time is rate, after all. There are times to have a longer CQ, such as when you need to get spotted by the RBN, or when on RTTY using 75 WPM Baudot and the short CQ message time may be too short to allow callers to get zero beat.

TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION has a new modular antenna switch kit that could be useful in your station-building activities. By combining multiple modules, it can scale in the number of antennas or in the number of transceiver to what the application requires.

Trung, W6TN, details how a Mumble server can be set up to serve audio from a remote radio, in the context of accessing a remote Elecraft KX3 from a mobile phone. A Mumble audio server could be a component you need for your remote station.

Adding wireless network capability to some of our serial-attached contest gear is easier with inexpensive chips like the ESP8266. There's a wealth of information now available on how to utilize this chip, and one person went so far as to WiFi enable his Fluke Multimeter.

With 6-26 MHz coverage, Tim, K3HX, suggests with tongue firmly in cheek that one of these 200-ton monster antennas (PDF) would make for a memorable 2017 Field Day.

The Senior Director of Audio Engineering for NPR suggested a method for not allowing changes to certain microphone settings: using epoxy to make the setting permanent. The complete interview also discusses other details which broadcasters are concerned about in a 'commercial' environment.


Building on LOTW

Here's something I've not heard lately with regards to ARRL Logbook of the World (LOTW) usage: "It's too hard to set up and use." Sure, there were teething pains. In those early days, some of the concepts and details needed to set up and maintain the chain of trust for QSO confirmations were new and unfamiliar. My perception in speaking with other hams is the complaints have diminished as LOTW utility and benefits have become apparent.

Most of us didn't realize it at the time, but amateurs were on the cutting edge of technology when we used LOTW, as the procedures LOTW uses for signing and uploading are essentially the same thing that many people now casually use years later for electronic signing of documents.

Perhaps the earliest enthusiastic contest supporters of LOTW were RTTY operators. In the first few years of LOTW operation, I recall being very impressed that a double-digit percentage of my ARRL RTTY Roundup QSOs were confirmed when I uploaded my log five hours after the contest ended.

The LOTW log submission process has been made even easier over time by the excellent built-in support of logging programs. Whether in batches or contact-by-contact, it's become nearly effortless to get contacts into LOTW once the setup has been done in your logging program.

With millions of confirmed QSOs now in the LOTW database, we're beginning to see non-ARRL entities using LOTW information as the 'ground truth' for certificates and achievements. They're doing so by using LOTW's programming interfaces with appropriate credentials to 'view' QSO information.

One example of this is Deutscher Amateur Radio Club (DARC)'s WRTC-2018 Worked WRTC Qualification Regions Award, which for the years 2015, 2016, and upcoming 2017 recognizes confirmed contacts with the 29 WRTC Qualification Regions. Rather than requiring what could be tedious record keeping, uploading, and submission, by allowing the DARC Community Logbook site to access your LOTW records the process is streamlined, as LOTW is directly queried for qualifying contacts.

Anticipating the future, I hope we see a substantial number of 3rd party applications or contests-within-a-contests built to use LOTW data and programming interfaces, and the signup for those applications simplified to the point that we can access those applications with just a few clicks.

That's all for this time. Remember to send contesting related stories, book reviews, tips, techniques, press releases, errata, schematics, club information, pictures, stories, blog links, predictions, and radio-related jokes to

73, Brian N9ADG


30 Jun - 13 Jul 2016

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.


CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jun 30, 0300z to Jun 30, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 2.

RAC Canada Day Contest, Jul 1, 0000z to Jul 1, 2359z; CW, Phone; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, 2m; VE: RS(T) + province/territory, non-VE: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: July 31.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Jul 1, 0145z to Jul 1, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: July 3.

NCCC Sprint, Jul 1, 0230z to Jul 1, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: July 3.

Venezuelan Independence Day Contest, Jul 2, 0000z to Jul 3, 2359z; CW, SSB, PSK; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: July 31.

FISTS Summer Slow Speed Sprint, Jul 2, 0000z to Jul 2, 0400z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; FISTS: RST + (state/province/country) + first name + FISTS No., non-FISTS: RST + (state/province/country) + first name + power; Logs due: August 1.

DL-DX RTTY Contest, Jul 2, 1100z to Jul 3, 1059z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + QSO No.; Logs due: July 10.

Marconi Memorial HF Contest, Jul 2, 1400z to Jul 3, 1400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: July 17.

Original QRP Contest, Jul 2, 1500z to Jul 3, 1500z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; RST + Serial No. + "/" + Power category; Logs due: July 31.

PODXS 070 Club 40m Firecracker Sprint, Jul 2, 2000z to Jul 3, 2000z; PSK31; Bands: 40m Only; RST + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 16.

DARC 10-Meter Digital Contest, Jul 3, 1100z to Jul 3, 1700z; RTTY, Amtor, Clover, PSK31, Pactor; Bands: 10m Only; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: July 18.

10-10 Int. Spirit of 76 QSO Party, Jul 4, 0001z to Jul 11, 0000z; CW, SSB, PSK31, RTTY, FM, AM; Bands: 10m Only; 10-10 Member: Name + 10-10 number + (state/province/country), Non-Member: Name + 0 + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 25.

RSGB 80m Club Championship, CW, Jul 4, 1900z to Jul 4, 2030z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: July 11.

ARS Spartan Sprint, Jul 5, 0100z to Jul 5, 0300z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + Power; Logs due: July 7.

Phone Fray, Jul 6, 0230z to Jul 6, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: July 8.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jul 6, 1300z to Jul 6, 1400z, Jul 6, 1900z to Jul 6, 2000z, Jul 7, 0300z to Jul 7, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 9.

NRAU 10m Activity Contest, Jul 7, 1700z to Jul 7, 1800z (CW), Jul 7, 1800z to Jul 7, 1900z (SSB), Jul 7, 1900z to Jul 7, 2000z (FM), Jul 7, 2000z to Jul 7, 2100z (Dig); CW, SSB, FM, Digital; Bands: 10m Only; RS(T) + 6-character grid square; Logs due: July 21.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Jul 8, 0145z to Jul 8, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: July 10.

NCCC Sprint, Jul 8, 0230z to Jul 8, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: July 10.

FISTS Summer Sprint, Jul 9, 0000z to Jul 9, 0400z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; FISTS: RST + (state/province/country) + first name + FISTS No., non-FISTS: RST + (state/province/country) + first name + power; Logs due: August 8.

SKCC Weekend Sprintathon, Jul 9, 1200z to Jul 11, 0000z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./"NONE"); Logs due: July 17.

IARU HF World Championship, Jul 9, 1200z to Jul 10, 1200z; CW, Phone; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; IARU HQ: RS(T) + IARU Society, Non-HQ: RS(T) + ITU Zone No.; Logs due: August 9.

CQC Great Colorado Gold Rush, Jul 10, 2000z to Jul 10, 2159z; CW; Bands: 20m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + class + (member no./power output); Logs due: August 9.

Phone Fray, Jul 13, 0230z to Jul 13, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: July 15.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jul 13, 1300z to Jul 13, 1400z, Jul 13, 1900z to Jul 13, 2000z, Jul 14, 0300z to Jul 14, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 16.

RSGB 80m Club Championship, SSB, Jul 13, 1900z to Jul 13, 2030z; SSB; Bands: 80m Only; RS + Serial No.; Logs due: July 14.


See SKCC Weekend Sprintathon and RAC Canada Day events, above


June 30, 2016

July 1, 2016

July 3, 2016

July 4, 2016

July 6, 2016

July 10, 2016

July 11, 2016

July 12, 2016

July 13, 2016

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