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Contest Update Issues

The ARRL Contest Update
November 16, 2016
Editor: Paul Bourque, N1SFE

Two weekends, two major contests: ARRL Phone Sweepstakes, and CQ World Wide DX, CW! Larry, K5OT, ARRL Sweepstakes Contest Manager, has some tips for Sweepstakes: "New contest ops frequently ask what they can do to improve their Sweepstakes scores. First, make sure you know the required exchange in the correct sequence. Write the exchange down on a card in front of the rig if necessary. There is no need to repeat it all twice ... say it clearly one time, and the other station will let you know if they need any 'fills' of information they missed. If you come across a station and there is a big pileup, try to work them but don't invest too much time fighting the masses. Put that frequency in your rig's memory (or 2nd VFO, or your logger's bandmap) and pop back later when things slow down a bit. You can use that waiting time productively to look for other stations to work. While it is natural to tune for stations, that is, 'search-and-pounce', don't be afraid to occasionally stop on a clear spot and spend some time CQing. A louder station might eventually push you off the frequency, but you will have made a nice string of QSOs in the meantime. Have fun!"

For the CQ WW DX CW contest, check out the "tips" page on the CQWW DX blog. Remember to be on the bands a few days BEFORE the contest as operators travel to distant locales and test antennas and gear. It's an opportunity to work some DX, and verify your station's operation.

The Homebrew and Oldtime Equipment party is coming up on November 20; for an example of what some rigs used to sound like, check out this YouTube video of a chirpy QRP transmitter operating into a dummy load.


None this time




Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

November 17

November 18

November 19

November 20

November 21

November 23

November 24

November 25

November 26

November 30


Larry, K5OT, ARRL Sweepstakes Contest Manager, writes: "Don't forget - the Phone portion of the annual ARRL November Sweepstakes begins this Saturday, November 19th at 2100Z. Check out the Sweepstakes information package (PDF) for complete rules, operating tips, and log submission details. And while you are thinking about your operating plans, take a moment to look over the recently updated Sweepstakes Phone records. There might be a category record in your ARRL Section that you could attack this year!"

The Northern California DX Foundation is renewing the design of its well-utilized beacon network. As detailed in the Winter 2016 NCDXF Newsletter, if everything goes to plan, most users will not notice any difference. One popular way to use the network is in conjunction with the Reverse Beacon Network. By checking the historical data of reception reports from a monitoring station near you, it can help to identify the right time and frequency to be on a particular band to maximize your chances of working a particular multiplier. It pays to check the "Using the RBN" web page.

The official rules for WRTC 2018 have been published. Continuing the two operator, two transmitter format of the preceding WRTC 2014, "Both stations will be permitted to transmit at any time to maximize their scoring and the fun of the world wide WRTC community" according to Uwe Koenneker, DL8OBF, Director of the WRTC 2018 Rules Committee. Notable among the WRTC 2018 rules is the allowance of the use of Panadapter or waterfall band displays, and disallowance of the use of a second or sub-receivers. Also, only one computer is permitted to be attached to each radio, and PCs used in the effort must connect via wired Ethernet. There will be requirements for signal quality, which are TBD.

The QRP Fox Hunt folks announce the second annual 160 meter QRP Fox Hunt, to take place 0200Z-0330Z Wednesday November 23, which is Tuesday evening in the U.S. Activity will be centered around 1.810 MHz. Look for stations calling "CQ FE" - the exchange should follow the usual Foxhunt format: RST, SPC, name, power. Note that this is NOT a contest where anyone can call CQ - please see the contest rules.

QRP-ARCI Contests are back! Jeff, VA3JFF/VE3CW, QRP-ARCI Contest Manager, announces the following eight QRP-ARCI sponsored contests for 2017:

New Years Day Sprint

January 1, 2017

Spring Thaw Sprint

March 11, 2017

Spring QSO Party

April 1-2, 2017

Hootowl Sprint

May 28, 2017

Summer Homebrew Sprint

July 9, 2017

Fall QSO Party

October 21-22, 2017

Top Band Sprint

November 30, 2017

Holiday Spirits Homebrew Sprint

December 17, 2017

Full details will be available on the QRP-ARCI website shortly.

Ángel, WP3GW, writes: "I am an avid Contest Update reader, and read about the split operations in a contest, which is common on 40 meters. I did it once with some results, but calling in the 7.075 - 7.100 MHz portion and listening up in the 7.200 plus segment. Why? As per FCC rules, licensed stations West of 130° and South of 20° from the Equator can call in that portion of the band on phone and image. That means stations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands can be in that segment of 40 meters, as can stations on Desecheo (KP5) and on Navassa (KP1), which the K1N operation took advantage of in 2015. For those of us in KP4 it is an extra privilege as we can make ragchew nets locally, but also be of great help if any emergency occurs in any other country, make an emergency traffic net and be part of the same translating in Spanish as well as be a link to the USA."

Members of the Sierra Nevada Amateur Radio Club hear about propogation at the "Introduction to Contesting" workshop at W7RN. [Photo by Barry, K6ST]

On Saturday, October 29th, during the 2016 CQ WW DX Contest, the Comstock Memorial Station (W7RN) sponsored "Introduction to Contesting" to members of the Sierra Nevada Amateur Radio Club (SNARS). In all, there were 14 participants. The average tenure as a ham of the visitors was one year. Each was given a chance to make at least one contest contact. The enthusiasm level was over the top and the session lasted more than 9 hours, including extensive introduction to HF antennas and how they work. The Elmers were Tom, K5RC, and Barry, K6ST. Participants included W1RK, N7SAX, KI7FNR, W7CDN, K7HMR, AG7BY, K7ASE, KA7EKU, AE7JW, KG7PG, KF7EGU, and KI7GVU.

Tom, K5RC, working with Michael, KF7EGU on 10 meters during the "Introduction to Contesting" workshop at W7RN [Photo by Barry, K6ST]

What can young hams do? In 1966, the California QSO Party was started by a group of teenagers from the Claremont Ham Club. You can revisit the results of the first CQP in the Northern California Contest Club's October 2016 Jug Newsletter. In the same NCCC newsletter, there's also a review of sorts of the CW Academy run by the CW Ops club.


Soapbox - Commentary that can be added to a log submission, intended to potentially be included in the contest results. Comments can be added to Cabrillo-format log files using the SOAPBOX: tag, with a maximum line length of 75 characters. Soapbox comments can also be included when score rumors are submitted to Reading soapbox comments is a good way to pick up new contesting tips or techniques. Writing pithy, incisive soapbox comments can be good therapy for poor band conditions.


NP3U, at the Mi Casita Contest Club site, operated M/M in the recent CQWW Contest. The Saturday afternoon operators are pictured left to right: Edgar, NP4EG, Angel, WP3GW and Rafael, NP3RE. [Photo courtesy of Angel, WP3GW]

Eric, 4Z1UG / WA6IGR, hosts, a podcasting site featuring thirty-minute interviews with Amateurs from all corners of our hobby. Perusing his list of past guests, you'll see some well-known calls, as well as some that you'll likely remember after you've listened to their interview. The content is well indexed, so you can quickly find podcasts that pertain to the particular aspects of Amateur Radio that you like, for example, "Contesting."

Dan, N6MJ, operated EF8U in the SO2R category during the recent CQ WW SSB Contest. You can watch over nine minutes of his operation where 'smooth' and 'calm' come to mind as he piles in the contacts on one band, while looking for contacts on another.

This installation of an 18 element Optibeam Yagi antenna is featured in a new YouTube video. Amir, 4X6TT, used a crane to install the antenna and rotator cage onto a monopole.


The 2016 ARRL June VHF Contest Full Results Article (PDF) was updated on the website on October 20 with updates to the plaques table.

Preliminary results for the October 2016 ARRL School Club Roundup are available. In the schools categories, KM4RE, the Russell Elementary Amateur Radio Club (Georgia) is currently in the top spot for Elementary/Primary Schools, while N4SMS, Schofield Middle School (South Carolina) has potentially captured the number one spot for middle schools. KF5CRF, the Tiger Radio Club (Oklahoma), is the top contender for Senior High, while Texas A&M is the likely winner in the college/university category.

The raw scores for CQ WW SSB 2016 are now available. These are the scores as calculated by the log checking software before any cross-log checking has occurred. Please send any feedback or comments to

Results for the 2015 JIDX Phone Contest are now available.

You can graphically interact with the results of CQWW Logs from 2007 through 2015 on EI6DX's Contest Activity Analyzer. Using the tools, you can see which bands were useful for making contacts between your zone and other parts of the world by time of day, using real data from a past year.


Winning QSOs and Influencing the Casual Operator

Always be enthusiastic when calling CQ. Make people want to work you. The most important time to be your most solicitous is just about the time you just want to be done, the slow times, or on the second day of the contest. When the rate is low or decreasing, you want to get non-serious or non-contesters to answer your CQ. Those Qs can really make a difference in your score. If you sound bored, your CQ will be less appealing. Try this: Smile while calling CQ, and when making the contact. People will hear it in your voice.


Think your Beverage antenna not performing like it should? You can use a time domain reflectometer (TDR), or the TDR feature of your antenna analyzer, to locate anomalies in your antenna. In a message to the Topband reflector, Eddie, LU2DKT, describes how he used an Array Solutions AIM 4170 analyzer to "look down" his antenna, and the device found a number of areas to inspect. The problems included water in his coax, vegetation touching the antenna, and a support post failure. They were easier to locate as the TDR indicates distance to the fault. His reflector post links to "broken" and "fixed" TDR scans, where you can see the line condition. This technique could be really useful if you need to check your antenna in the middle of the night, and don't want to walk hundreds of feet in the dark to visually inspect it.

All BNC connectors are NOT the same. There are differences between 50 ohm and 75 ohm BNC connectors, including center pin size, and the dielectric material used to insulate the pin from the outer connector. A crimp tool meant to be used on a center pin of one type may not be compatible with another. Intermixing connectors may not matter so much for lower frequencies, but over 10 MHz could lead to increased VSWR.

Back in August, EDN did a survey of printed circuit board fabrication houses for making prototype boards. In addition to the vendors mentioned in the article, the comments also provide some additional possibilities to get your small projects done.

Vacuum tube testers are still in demand from those that use tubes in audio applications, and personal computers can be used to perform a number of tests faster than any human can turn rotary switches, press the test button, and read meters. Here's a review of some of the digital tube testers that are available, including some that are DIY. Anyone using these to test transmitter or amplifier tubes?


Why Sweepstakes?

You're either into it, or you're not. Some Amateurs of a certain age talk about Sweepstakes wistfully, as if they are recalling their last one, or maybe all of them together, at once. At one time I was a Sweepstakes denier. "Boy, that's a weird exchange." "Seems like it's just a domestic contest." "No per band mults, how fun can that be?" "Doesn't count for our Pacific Northwest inter-club competition." All of those statements may be true. And yet I now look forward to Sweepstakes. It started a few years ago when I was invited to participate in a phone multi-op. Somehow, the perceived awkwardness of the exchange, the slowness of the second day, and a dozen other things transformed from annoyances into a positive shared experience. I was one of the team. We made many, many Qs, talked about radio a lot, broke things and fixed things, and had a good time. Over time, the event has turned into a ritual. Looking at the 2015 top scorers in the various operating categories, I wondered how they viewed the Phone contest.

Randy, ND0C, earned the top US spot last year in the QRP Phone category. Yes, QRP, Phone. Have you heard the bands during Phone Sweepstakes? He had made 424 contacts from Minnesota, including a clean sweep. Why do this? According to Randy: 'Well, it's natural to ask a sane person why they would run QRP in a phone contest, but of course that's assuming.... Aside from the pathological masochism that must be present, for me it simply boils down to the challenge. Years ago, when I was explaining what QRP DXing and contesting was all about to a non-ham, he quickly asked if I fished with ultra-light weight tackle. I think that is a pretty good analogy. I interpret QRP very literally, meaning it is 5 watts or less to the antenna. For some folks it seems to imply minimalist everything, including antennas, like you have to also use only dipoles, or better yet, underground antennas to be a "real QRPer". But I don't subscribe to that philosophy. I will use the most effective antenna I can (limited by my normal residential lot). And I make sure the antennas are tuned precisely and I use open-line feed to my dipole to minimize feed line loss. For me, the challenge is to do as much with those 5 watts as possible, which means I need to optimize efficiency. And I need to be as good as I can be when it comes to timing my calls, finding the mults before the packet hordes descend, etc. To get a clean sweep in SS as a QRP unassisted op is a real blast. Things have be to working well ... and I have to be lucky. And with QRP I can't depend on brute force to break a pile-up for a tough section. I have to be "on the hunt" all of the time. And I have to be smart in choosing my battles. Really it is as much about the listening as anything, and knowing the bands and the propagation. Running is fun, but I can only do that when a band is really open and I'm feeling "loud". If I can't get at least one contact every minute or so by CQing, I'll go back to search and pounce, my normal approach to most contests. I thrive on the competition. Can I win the division? Can I get in to the top 10 QRP? But it's not just competing against other stations and operators; it's really against myself. Can I beat last year's score? Can I beat my best score ever? Can I get a sweep? How soon? How good can I be and what can I accomplish with five watts? It can be really tough when I'm battling Kilowatts to get QSOs and mults, but there is an incredible satisfaction every time I have success in doing so. So to sum it up, I guess it is, again the challenge. And I am frequently amazed at what can be done with QRP, even on SSB. And there is nothing better than having an operator recognize my call and ask me if I'm running QRP. When I give them the inevitable answer "yes, five watts", they respond with something like "wow - you are loud!" Now that's cool! One last thought: You don't have to be crazy to run QRP in a phone contest... But it helps. '

Also in 2015, Bob, W0BH, shepherded a team from the Hesston College Amateur Radio Club to a first place win in the School category. With 1334 contacts and a clean sweep, Bob effectively shares the Sweepstakes spirit: "Sweepstakes is my way of introducing college students to ham radio. As trustee of K0HC, the Hesston College Amateur Radio Club call, I enjoy the process of meeting with students outside of class to put together and train a SSB Sweepstakes team. Most students come from our aviation, air traffic control and computer science programs, and they are usually unlicensed. Seeing them working together to talk and log, hunt for multipliers, chat with other School teams, and just have fun makes it worthwhile year after year. We hope to work you all again this coming weekend!"

W4AQL, the Georgia Tech Amateur Radio Club, sends a check of 12, though they started in 1910. In 2015, they were awarded second place in the 'S' category, phone. Phil, KJ7IQA, President, commented: "Sweepstakes is the biggest contest of the year for us in terms of participation and effort, but we don't really do a lot of recruiting for it. We simply make an announcement about the contest at the last club meeting before Sweepstakes weekend, and we may exchange a few planning E-Mails among club members to make sure that people will be able to come to operate. Saturday evening is the time when we can expect the most turnout. A small crowd, mostly consisting of club members, congregates in our shack. Operators will rotate throughout the evening, allowing for everyone to have a chance to get on the air while preventing anyone from getting burned out. Everyone else who isn't operating just hangs out together, whether they're chatting or working on homework or whatever else. ... I think we also usually end up getting pizza and having dinner together, making sure to save some for the operators! Gradually, people will start trickling out to go home, although usually one or two people end up staying later than everyone else to operate for as long as they can stand. Sunday usually sees a smaller turnout, with only two or three people in the shack at once. Personally, I've only worked sweepstakes with the GTARC in this kind of group setting, and I really think that it's the way to go. Having a group of operators rather than going it alone allows us to stay on the air longer while keeping any one person from sitting alone at the radio for hours on end, and it also becomes a sort of social gathering rather than just a contest. I always look forward to Sweepstakes because it's a lot of fun both to keep up with the fast pace of contacts on the air, but also to get to hang out with friends in the shack in between operating stints. It's also very satisfying, of course, to be able to look at the contest results once all is said and done, to see the club's callsign high in the rankings, and to know that I contributed a valuable part to earning that prize."

Randy, K0EU, entered the Unlimited category in 2015, earning first place with 2064 contacts, and was candid: "It isn't my favorite contest, due to the fact that the rate slows down so much as the contest progresses. The first 4-6 hours are great, though. The main reason I enter is because I have a chance to place #1 nationally if I choose any category except 'B'."

Steve, N2IC, who achieved second place in the 'B' category, commented that the reason he enjoyed Sweepstakes was for 'The challenge of hunting the last remaining contesters on Sunday, before either I or they go extinct at 0300Z!' This jibes with Jeff, VY2ZM: 'I do it because it is a LONG EXCHANGE and a challenge - plus the competition is really unreal.'

See you in Sweepstakes!

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

73, Brian N9ADG


17 Nov - 30 Nov 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, Nov 16, 1300z to Nov 16, 1400z, Nov 16, 1900z to Nov 16, 2000z, Nov 17, 0300z to Nov 17, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: November 19.

NAQCC CW Sprint, Nov 17, 0130z to Nov 17, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; RST + (state/province/country) + (NAQCC No./power); Logs due: November 21.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Nov 18, 0145z to Nov 18, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: November 20.

QRP Fox Hunt, Nov 18, 0200z to Nov 18, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: November 24.

NCCC Sprint, Nov 18, 0230z to Nov 18, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: November 20.

YO International PSK31 Contest, Nov 18, 1600z to Nov 18, 2200z; PSK31; Bands: 80m Only; YO: RST + Serial No. + County, non-YO: RST + Serial No. + Country; Logs due: December 3.

SARL Field Day Contest, Nov 19, 1000z to Nov 20, 1000z; CW, SSB, Digital; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RS(T) + Number of transmitters + Category (see rules) + Province (or "DX"); Logs due: see rules.

LZ DX Contest, Nov 19, 1200z to Nov 20, 1200z; CW, SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; LZ: RS(T) + 2-letter district, non-LZ: RS(T) + ITU Zone No.; Logs due: December 20.

All Austrian 160-Meter Contest, Nov 19, 1600z to Nov 20, 0700z; CW; Bands: 160m Only; OE: RST + Serial No. + District Code, non-OE: RST + Serial No.; Logs due: December 31.

Feld Hell Sprint, Nov 19, 1700z to Nov 19, 1859z; Feld Hell; Bands: 160, 80, 40m; (see rules); Logs due: November 23.

RSGB 2nd 1.8 MHz Contest, CW, Nov 19, 1900z to Nov 19, 2300z; CW; Bands: 160m Only; UK: RST + Serial No. + District Code, non-UK: RST + Serial No.; Logs due: November 26.

ARRL Sweepstakes Contest, SSB, Nov 19, 2100z to Nov 21, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Serial No. + Precedence (Q/A/B/U/M/S) + [your call sign] + Check + ARRL/RAC Section; Logs due: December 6.

Homebrew and Oldtime Equipment Party, Nov 20, 1300z to Nov 20, 1500z (40m), Nov 20, 1500z to Nov 20, 1700z (80m); CW; Bands: 80, 40m; RST + Serial No. + "/" + class; Logs due: December 21.

Run for the Bacon QRP Contest, Nov 21, 0200z to Nov 21, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + (Member No./power); Logs due: November 27.

SKCC Sprint, Nov 23, 0000z to Nov 23, 0200z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./power); Logs due: November 25.

Phone Fray, Nov 23, 0230z to Nov 23, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: November 25.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Nov 23, 1300z to Nov 23, 1400z, Nov 23, 1900z to Nov 23, 2000z, Nov 24, 0300z to Nov 24, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: November 26.

RSGB 80m Club Sprint, CW, Nov 24, 2000z to Nov 24, 2100z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; [other station's call] + [your call] + [serial no.] + [your name]; Logs due: December 1.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Nov 25, 0145z to Nov 25, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: November 27.

NCCC Sprint, Nov 25, 0230z to Nov 25, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: November 27.

CQ Worldwide DX Contest, CW, Nov 26, 0000z to Nov 28, 0000z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + CQ Zone No.; Logs due: December 2.

QRP Fox Hunt, Nov 30, 0200z to Nov 30, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: December 1.

Phone Fray, Nov 30, 0230z to Nov 30, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: December 2.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Nov 30, 1300z to Nov 30, 1400z, Nov 30, 1900z to Nov 30, 2000z, Dec 1, 0300z to Dec 1, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: December 3.

UKEICC 80m Contest, Nov 30, 2000z to Nov 30, 2100z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; 4-Character grid square; Logs due: November 30.


ARRL EME Contest, Nov 19, 0000z to Nov 20, 2359z; CW, Phone, Digital; Bands: 50-1296 MHz; Signal report; Logs due: December 21.


November 17, 2016

November 18, 2016

November 19, 2016

November 20, 2016

November 21, 2016

November 27, 2016

November 28, 2016

November 30, 2016

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