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Contest Update Issues

The ARRL Contest Update
December 14, 2016
Editor: Paul Bourque, N1SFE

The ARRL Rookie Roundup is happening December 18. The mode for this month's roundup is CW. All amateurs are encouraged to participate, but only those licensed 3 years or fewer can submit a log. Logs are due 3 days after the contest's end.

The Stew Perry Top Band Distance Challenge is coming up December 17. This grid-based contest has expanded to four sessions yearly, however, the upcoming December event is the most popular. If you have any aspirations to be on 160 meters, this is the weekend to try, as contesters are incented to pull out low power and QRP signals for extra points.

Also on the weekend of December 17, the RAC Contest will provide opportunities for Phone and CW contacts from 160 through 2 meters. There's a non-award-eligible distributed multioperator category that might be fun to enter with a group of friends.

This time of year, there are plenty of operating events and low-key contests to participate in that have a gimmick or a twist. For example, ARRL Straight Key Night encourages the use of bugs or traditional straight keys. The Bruce Kelly 1929 QSO Party encourages use of equipment from the year 1929, as you might expect from the sponsor being the Antique Wireless Association.




John, K9JK, notes that the ARRL 160 Meter Contest logs are due 1600 UTC Tuesday, January 3, 2017, while the ARRL 10 Meter Contest logs are due 0000 UTC Wednesday, January 11, 2017.


Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

December 15

December 16

December 17

December 18

December 19

December 21

December 22

December 23

December 25

December 26

December 28


The barrel hitch knot can be used to hoist a heavier load in a five gallon pail.

Ward, N0AX, suggests knowing how to tie the barrel hitch knot. It can replace a missing or weak handle on a five gallon bucket to enable lifting heavy items during tower work.

So far for 2016, UK sales of music delivered on vinyl records exceeded sales of digital downloads for the first time ever.

DXing on the Edge - The Thrill of 160 Meters, 2nd edition, a book by Jeff Briggs, K1ZM, is now available from DX Engineering, and also available from Array Solutions. Top band contesters will surely find something of interest in this book, which covers practical antennas, Top Band history, and Top Band-specific operating techniques.

Jose, CT1BOH, calls the technique used at CR3OO 2BSIQ, or two band synchronized interleaved QSOs. In the video, 17 QSOs are made in 2 minutes, reflecting a rate of approximately 510 QSOs per hour. Jose requests "you hear it with headphones and in a PC in order to fully understand what station is coming from its respective radio, and also read the comments I put in the video to help fully understand it."

N3FJP has updated his ARRL 10 Meter Contest Log program to version 5.3, reflecting recent changes to the Mexican section abbreviations.

The November 2016 DKARS magazine, published by the Dutch Kingdom Amateur Radio Society, is available on their website. PJ4DX has a retrospective on the 2016 CQWW DX Phone contest, describing the PJ4Q Multi-single operation in comparison with other PJ4 stations in the contest.

If you need caffeinated beverage and food suggestions for contest weekends, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has compiled a list of foods and beverages along with their caffeine content. The categories includes coffees, teas, energy beverages, as well as caffeinated snack foods, ice creams and yogurts, chocolate candy and chocolate drinks, and over-the-counter pills containing caffeine. Keep in mind that the Mayo Clinic recommended amount of caffeine is 400 mg per day for adults.

Registration is open for the International DX Convention to be held April 21-23, 2017 in Visalia, California. This year's format has been expanded to 3 days, with Contest Academy on the opening Friday.



A device which arbitrates and controls connections between various pieces of equipment in the receive and transmit signal chains. It is commonly used in UHF/VHF operations where transceivers, transverters, monoband amplifiers, and preamplifiers are used in combination. For example, sequencers are used to make sure that elements of the receive chain such as preamplifiers are switched OUT during transmit, and that all proper transmit components such as amplifiers and filters are switched IN before RF is applied. Modern sequencers are highly configurable, to accommodate complex topologies with varied switching times.


Proceedings of the Pacific Northwest VHF Society's 2016 Conference in Bend, Oregon have been posted. Of particular interest to a UHF/VHF contester may be Rick, KK7B's presentation on high-performance Yagi antennas.

HamRadio360 Workbench is a series of podcasts around building Amateur Radio gear. It recently featured a community build of an Arduino based antenna analyzer, including design of the PC board, and sourcing of parts.

Ronald, PA3EWP, replacing the rotator for the 15 meter antenna on the PI4COM tower at night. Kees, PA3BWD, is assisting on the ground. [Photo courtesy of Richard, PD4RD].

The PI4COM team had hopes to enter the ARRL 10 Meter contest last weekend, however propagation was not favorable, and instead they put special call signs PA30EUDXF and PF30EUDXF on the air.

Sterling, N0SSC, and Marty, KC1CWF, have released the second episode of their Phasing Line podcast. The episode discusses Sweepstakes, operator mentoring at multiops, and working someone with a peanut butter jar antenna. Sterling, 24, is a past ARRL Youth editor, and Marty, 14, is an active contester and promoter of youth radio activities.


The final results of the Worked All Europe DX Contest, SSB, are available on the DARC website. Participants are encouraged to share their contest experiences on the WAEDC Facebook page. The WAEDC RTTY Raw scores are also online.

There are fewer than 575 days until WRTC 2018. As always, the standings are viewable on the WRTC 2018 website.


On-the-fly Macro Modification

Consider using the ESCape key during the playback of a CW Macro to shorten it to suit your needs. For example, while running, if my "Thank you" message is "TU N9ADG," I might interrupt it to just send "TU" if I know that there's another caller but didn't get their whole call. Similarly, I could lengthen a "CQ TEST N9ADG" message for the slow times by repeatedly stopping the message after the CQ, and then finally sending the entire message: "CQ" "CQ TEST N9ADG."


Backscatter communications is being used by researchers at the University of Washington for ultra-low-power 802.11b Wi-Fi communications. In their scheme, portable low-power devices generate 802.11b signals by receiving an out-of-channel carrier signal, then modulating and mixing the signal so it is transmitted on the desired band. The modulating and mixing steps require much less power relative to the generation of the carrier signal, achieving up to a 10,000-fold reduction in energy consumption.

Over-the-horizon radar is an unwelcome intruder into the ham bands. In an example of making lemonade from lemons, Daniel, M0HXM, received and analyzed the waveform of an OTH radar operating near 40 meters to compute the height of ionosphere reflections. He used an IQ recording of the signal, processed by GNU Radio and other open source tools to perform his analysis. He has also improved his analysis in a follow-up article.

Always check your cables, even when they're new. Both VGA Y cables pictured were from the same vendor, but from different orders. The cable the left has all pins, the cable on the right is missing Pin 9. Pin 9 is used by the K3 ACC connector for a band select line.

While connecting some switchable bandpass filters to a K3, I noticed that the recent batch of Y cables from a vendor were missing a pin compared to the previous order. As this was one of the band inputs, this would have put us off the air for at least a few minutes if we didn't catch it before the contest.

Dave, NK7Z, has posted an article on how he is using an SDRPlay SDR to characterize and count the potential RFI sources in his environment. He also points out some tools that are available to help record spectra, and how he interprets the images that he collects. Parts 2 and 3 of his series (yet to be published) promise additional information on how to optimize the display to find particular types of RFI, and then how to find the RFI source using his SDR setup.


Contest Relevant

The ability to compete in a contest is the result of the coordination of many different tasks requiring many different hard and soft skills. Consequently, there are a lot of possible topic areas in an electronic publication about contesting and many opinions about what topics would be interesting. For each issue of "Contest Update," there's a balance between here-and-now practical contesting topics and interesting little tidbits that may not be immediately helpful in any radio contest. An example of the latter is quantum computing. If and when quantum computing technology become a reality and available at the same cost of a high-end radio, we'll likely see its use as part of improved digital signal processing and coding techniques in our hobby. But we're not going to be using quantum computing technology in contesting in 2017 or 2018.

Other topics that today are borderline contest-related could unexpectedly be mainstream in a short period of time. For example, voice recognition delivered via cloud computing may be what enables a usable contest SSB skimmer. Suddenly, scalable computing resources will be part of contest technology discussions. And then there are the topics that are solidly qualified for inclusion, everything from station construction to maintenance of the operator and ethics. Your comments and suggestions regarding the Contest Update are always welcome via the email address.

Happy Holidays!

73, Brian N9ADG



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


AWA Bruce Kelley 1929 QSO Party, Dec 10, 2300z to Dec 11, 2300z, Dec 17, 2300z to Dec 18, 2300z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40m; RST + Name + QTH + Eqpt Year + Transmitter Type (see rules for format); Logs due: see rules.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Dec 14, 1300z to Dec 14, 1400z, Dec 14, 1900z to Dec 14, 2000z, Dec 15, 0300z to Dec 15, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: December 17.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Dec 16, 0145z to Dec 16, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: December 18.

QRP Fox Hunt, Dec 16, 0200z to Dec 16, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: December 22.

NCCC Sprint, Dec 16, 0230z to Dec 16, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: December 18.

Russian 160-Meter Contest, Dec 16, 2000z to Dec 18, 0000z; CW, SSB; Bands: 160m Only; Rus: RS(T) + Oblast code, non-Rus: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: December 31.

AGB-Party Contest, Dec 16, 2100z to Dec 17, 0000z; CW, SSB, Digital; Bands: 80m Only; AGB Member: RST + QSO No. + Member No., non-Member: RST + QSO No.; Logs due: January 13.

OK DX RTTY Contest, Dec 17, 0000z to Dec 18, 0000z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + CQ Zone; Logs due: December 24.

RAC Winter Contest, Dec 17, 0000z to Dec 17, 2359z; CW, Phone; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, 2m; VE: RS(T) + (province/territory), non-VE and VE0: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: January 31.

Feld Hell Sprint, Dec 17, 0000z to Dec 17, 2359z; Feld Hell; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; (see rules); Logs due: December 21.

Padang DX Contest, Dec 17, 1200z to Dec 17, 2359z; SSB; Bands: 40m Only; RS + Serial No.; Logs due: December 24.

Croatian CW Contest, Dec 17, 1400z to Dec 18, 1400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: January 17.

Stew Perry Topband Challenge, Dec 17, 1500z to Dec 18, 1500z; CW; Bands: 160m Only; 4-Character grid square; Logs due: January 2.

ARRL Rookie Roundup, CW, Dec 18, 1800z to Dec 18, 2359z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; NA: Name + 2-digit year first licensed + (state/province/XE area/DX); Logs due: December 21.

Run for the Bacon QRP Contest, Dec 19, 0200z to Dec 19, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + (Member No./power); Logs due: December 25.

QRP Fox Hunt, Dec 21, 0200z to Dec 21, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: December 22.

Phone Fray, Dec 21, 0230z to Dec 21, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: December 23.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Dec 21, 1300z to Dec 21, 1400z, Dec 21, 1900z to Dec 21, 2000z, Dec 22, 0300z to Dec 22, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: December 24.

NAQCC CW Sprint, Dec 22, 0130z to Dec 22, 0330z; CW; Bands: 160m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + (NAQCC No./power); Logs due: December 25.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Dec 23, 0145z to Dec 23, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: December 25.

QRP Fox Hunt, Dec 23, 0200z to Dec 23, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: December 29.

NCCC Sprint, Dec 23, 0230z to Dec 23, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: December 25.

RAEM Contest, Dec 25, 0000z to Dec 25, 1159z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Serial No. + latitude (degs only) + longitude (degs only), N=North, S=South, W=West, O=East (e.g. 57N 85O); Logs due: January 24.

DARC Christmas Contest, Dec 26, 0830z to Dec 26, 1059z; CW, SSB; Bands: 80, 40m; DL: RS(T) + DOK (or Special Station abbreviation), non-DL: RS(T) + QSO No.; Logs due: January 16.

SKCC Sprint, Dec 28, 0000z to Dec 28, 0200z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./power); Logs due: December 30.

QRP Fox Hunt, Dec 28, 0200z to Dec 28, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: December 29.

Phone Fray, Dec 28, 0230z to Dec 28, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: December 30.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Dec 28, 1300z to Dec 28, 1400z, Dec 28, 1900z to Dec 28, 2000z, Dec 29, 0300z to Dec 29, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: December 31.


See Feld Hell Sprint, ARRL Rookie Roundup, and RAC Winter contests, above.


December 15, 2016

December 16, 2016

December 17, 2016

December 18, 2016

December 19, 2016

December 21, 2016

December 24, 2016

December 25, 2016

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




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