ARRL Sweepstakes Takes to the Phone Bands Next Weekend
The SSB portion of the ARRL November Sweepstakes -- the premier domestic HF contest -- takes place next weekend, running 2100 UTC Saturday, November 21 to 0300 Monday, November 23 (or 4 PM Saturday to 10 PM Sunday EST). According to ARRL Contest Branch Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X, the event -- first called "The January Contest" -- started back in 1929 as a competition for handling formal traffic messages. "Sweepstakes is one of the oldest traditions in Amateur Radio," Kutzko said. "The contest exchange contains more elements than usual, an homage to the traffic-handling days of yore. If you have never participated in Sweepstakes, you are really missing out on some serious fun!"
Kutzko said the phone portion of Sweepstakes differs a bit from the CW portion: "The phone bands are considerably more crowded than CW. First there's the bandwidth issue: A single phone QSO takes up more -- at least six times more -- bandwidth than a CW signal does. There also tends to be more casual (non-contest) phone operating, such as nets, rag chews and scheduled contacts with which you need to be aware and coexist." He advises those participating in radiosport events such as Sweepstakes be courteous to other band occupants, whether they are contesters or not.
QST Contributing Editor H. Ward Silver, N0AX, said that some hams have picked up the habit of using "the last two" to call a station, meaning using just the last two letters of your call. "Please use your entire call sign," he advised. "Nine times out of 10, the other station will copy all of it the first time." Use standard phonetics, such as the ones found here. A complete primer by Silver on how to participate in Sweepstakes can be found here.
Kutzko and Silver both agreed that signal quality is much more of an issue on phone. Their advice? Before the contest, have a friend check your signal at full power -- is the audio clear and splatter-free? If not, take steps to make it so -- you will make more contacts and have fewer problems on adjacent frequencies. And a tip -- having a noise blanker or preamp turned on will likely lead to severe intermodulation and overload problems in your receiver. Turn them off whenever possible. In fact, cranking in some attenuation or turning down the RF Gain control will improve receiver performance dramatically.
If you submit a score, Kutzko said to be sure to keep in mind the new deadlines for log submissions. The log submission deadline for the SSB Sweepstakes is 0300 UTC Tuesday, December 8. The preferred method of log submission is the Cabrillo electronic format. "We have several links on the ARRL Contest Branch Web page devoted to Sweepstakes tutorials, including how Cabrillo works and even templates for submitting an entry," Kutzko explained. "While the ARRL will never turn away a paper log, we are asking all entrants to submit their log electronically if possible; this will greatly help us to publish the scores in 60 days as many participants have requested. Contest clubs are encouraged to assist their club members with paper logs in the Cabrillo conversion process. The WA7BNM Cabrillo Web Forms site will walk you through creating a Cabrillo-formatted log."
Numerous certificates and plaques will be awarded. ICOM America is the principal awards sponsor of the November Sweepstakes. Special participation pins and Clean Sweep mugs will be available for purchase as always. Pins are available for $6 to any station that submits a log with more than 100 QSOs. Clean Sweep mugs will be available to any station that submits a log with all 80 Sections worked; mugs cost $12.
While the object of the November Sweepstakes is to work all 80 ARRL and RAC Sections, no one says you have to do so! Sweepstakes is a good time to get on the air for a couple of hours and see what you can do. Whether you are operating from a fixed station with stacked arrays for every band or a small rig and a dipole, you are bound to make QSOs and have fun at the same time. Sweepstakes has been a part of Amateur Radio for nearly eight decades. Don't sit this one out -- get on the air, have fun and take part of one of Amateur Radio's oldest and finest traditions."