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2011 ARRL CW Sweepstakes -- Are You Ready?

10/26/2011

Steeped in tradition and still as exciting as ever, the 78th Annual ARRL Sweepstakes offers US and Canadian operators a fun-filled contest opportunity again this fall. First up is CW Sweepstakes during the weekend of November 5-7.

“Last year’s CW Sweepstakes provided some great activity with a number of new regional and divisional records,” said ARRL Sweepstakes Contest Manager Larry Hammel, K5OT. “How about that amazing finish in the single-op high power CW category? For the first time ever in a single-op category, the top two finishers ended in a tie! Pat Barkey, N9RV, and N0NI (piloted by Mark Obermann, AG9A) finished with an identical 232,480 points, sharing the crown. It doesn’t get any closer than that!”

If you are a regular CW Sweeps enthusiast, then you already have the first weekend in November marked on your calendar. But what if it has been a while since your last Sweepstakes adventure? Or maybe you are considering a first-time entry this year? Be sure to check out the 2011 ARRL November Sweepstakes Operating Guide. ARRL Contest Branch Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X, has organized an excellent collection of Sweepstakes information and links in the Operating Guide that will help both newbies and old-timers understand the rules, operating techniques and log submission guidelines.

“You don’t have to have a huge station with large antennas to have fun in Sweepstakes,” Hammel explained. “Maybe you have 100 W and a backyard dipole or vertical. Or perhaps the challenge of a 5 W QRP effort hits your hot button this year. You will be amazed at the number of stations you can work as you trade exchanges all over the continent. If you make at least 100 QSOs, you can order a Participation Pin to recognize your effort. There are Section and Division recognition awards in each category that you might win with a little more time in the chair.”

A favorite quest during Sweepstakes every year is to try to earn a “Clean Sweep” by working at least one station in all 80 ARRL/RAC Sections. Reach this elite level and you can receive a highly desired Clean Sweep mug for your accomplishment!

Something New (and Somewhat New) for 2011

There are some new categories of competition this year. Beginning with the 2011 Sweepstakes, the Single Operator Unlimited (U) and Multioperator (M) categories have been split into High Power and Low Power. Entrants still send the “U” or “M” precedence as part of the contest exchange, but those stations can now compete with others in a comparable power category. See the rules for more information. New categories will create a lot of new records up for grabs -- maybe your call will be added to the list this year.

Another change (implemented in 2010) allows alumni to participate in the School Club category when operating from the established school station along with current student members. Maybe your school would like to join the other “S” stations enjoying a break from studies with a Sweepstakes entry? There are many records available to be set in the School Club category, and the Collegiate Championship features head-to-head competition between schools, too.

Tips, Tricks and Techniques for ARRL Sweepstakes

If you are new (or just a bit rusty) with CW Sweepstakes, Hammel offered six things that you can do to improve your enjoyment and your score:

  • Refresh your knowledge of the 80 ARRL/RAC Sections and their abbreviations. There are some tricky ones: Los Angeles (LAX) vs Louisiana (LA), Orange County (ORG) vs Oregon (OR), San Diego County (SDG) vs South Dakota (SD) and others. You can’t depend on the call sign alone to identify where stations are located -- they might be from almost anywhere!
  • Operate at a code speed that is comfortable for you. Stations want your contact and most will try to match your speed. If you still can’t copy the exchange, then ask them to QRS (send slower).
  • It is easy to get lulled into a search-and-pounce routine, which is a good technique to make QSOs and find some new Sections. But don’t be afraid to call CQ, too! Your score will increase a lot faster when the Sections come to you. Tune around for a clear frequency on the high end of the band, rather than slugging it out on the low end. If one frequency doesn’t produce many contacts, slide up or down a few kilohertz to a clear spot and try again. Or jump to another active band and test the waters there. Keep your CQ short [CQ SS W1AW W1AW] and repeat as needed. Someone will hear you!
  • Activity in Sweepstakes is always highest on Saturday. But many folks can’t operate full time, and they need to budget their on-the-air time during the contest. If this is your situation, you might try to be on during Sunday afternoon or evening. As a new station on the band, you will generate a lot of interest -- and callers -- when you call CQ SS during this typically slower period.
  • Try to copy the exchange information as accurately as you can. Then after the contest, send in your log! Your Cabrillo log will really help the overall log checking process, and you might just come away with a category record or other recognition for your effort. You can use WA7BNM’s online web page to submit your log information in the right format.
  • Finally, don’t forget about 10 meters! The 28 MHz band has been sluggish for a number of years, but recent improvements in solar conditions might really bring some life and activity to the band. Even the most modest stations can do extremely well on 10 meters.

Please join the many CW ops all across the continent in sharing the tradition and fun of November CW Sweepstakes -- 2011 style!

ICOM is the Principal Awards Sponsor for the ARRL November CW Sweepstakes. The CW running of Sweepstakes runs from 2100 UTC Saturday, November 5 through 0259 UTC Monday, November 7. Complete rules and forms can be found online. Electronic logs should be submitted via e-mail; paper logs can be sent to ARRL November SS CW Contest, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111. Paper logs must be postmarked no later than 0300 UTC Tuesday, November 22, 2011.



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