ARRL 10 Meter Contest Means HF Fun for Technicians, Too!
This weekend brings an opportunity for Technician licensees to exercise their HF privileges and have fun at the same time. The ARRL 10 Meter Contest is set to begin at 0000 UTC on Saturday December 13 (this is Friday evening in the US) and runs through 2359 UTC on Sunday, December 14.
"Anyone having tuned across 10 meters lately might think the band is uninhabited," said ARRL Contest Branch Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X, "but on Friday afternoon, activity will increase dramatically. We're at the bottom of the solar sunspot cycle, so the worldwide band openings of a few years ago won't be happening, but the 10 Meter Contest brings hundreds of stations to the band."
Kutzko said that the contest "concentrates the activity, so all sorts of interesting contacts take place via local line-of-sight, sporadic-E and all kinds of scatter modes -- even meteor scatter!"
If you would like to try your hand at HF operating, Kutzko recommends a radio that can operate SSB (and CW, if you know Morse code) from 28.000 to about 28.500 MHz, as that's where most of the contest activity takes place; SSB activity will be between 28.300-28.500 MHz (listen to beacon stations located between 28.200-28.300 MHz to check for band openings).
If you need an antenna for 10 meters, ARRL Contributing Editor H. Ward Silver, N0AX, suggests using a full-size CB mobile whip trimmed to about 98 inches in length, but a dipole is also easy to make, he explains: "Cut two pieces of wire (any size from #12 to #20) to a length of 98 inches and strip the end of a piece of RG-8X or RG-213 coax. Solder the shield braid to one length of wire and the center conductor to the other. Stretch out the wires and attach each free end to an insulator, such as a piece of PVC pipe or Plexiglass. You've just made a dipole!" You should then attach some thin cord or rope to the insulators so that they don't touch the wires and then hoist the dipole up in the air between a couple of trees or whatever supports you have -- it doesn't have to be very high. Check out this article on how to make dipoles on the ARRL Web site.
Once you tune into the contest, Kutzko said, you'll hear stations calling "CQ Contest" and giving their call sign. Another station will call them and they'll transmit a short message called the exchange. US and Canadian amateurs give a signal report (just "59" will do fine) and their state. If you hear a DX station, likely to be from South America or the Pacific -- they'll give the signal report and the sequential serial number (starting with 001) of the QSO in this contest (if you are their 187th QSO, you will receive "187" as part of their exchange to you). For example, if K7CEX hears W5KFT, the sequence might go like this:
CQ Contest from W5KFT
W5KFT from K7CEX
K7CEX you are 59 in Texas
W5KFT from K7CEX you are 59 in Washington
Thanks, CQ Contest from W5KFT
"Your best chances of making a contact are during the middle daylight hours of Saturday and Sunday, due to propagation considerations," Kutzko advises. "But I do have to warn you -- this simple contest can keep you busy for hours as you chase new states and even different countries! There is no need to sit on the sidelines for this fun event -- get on the air and enjoy your Technician license to the fullest!"