Fun and Excitement Fill the Airwaves for the 2012 ARRL November CW Sweepstakes
Steeped in tradition and still as exciting as ever, the 79th 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 3-5. “You don’t have to have a huge station with large antennas to have fun in Sweepstakes,” explained ARRL Sweepstakes Manager Larry Hammel, K5OT. “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.”
This year, with four new Canadian Sections, will be a bit different. In August, the RAC split its Ontario Section into four new Sections: Ontario East (ONE), Ontario North (ONN), Ontario South (ONS) and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Contesters now need to work 83 sections to earn the coveted Clean Sweep. You will want to ensure that your contest logging software is up-to-date and is capable of logging these new Sections. Click here for a map of the four new RAC Sections.
“I just love the CW Sweepstakes,” said ARRL Contest Branch Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X. “It’s my favorite HF contest of them all. It’s focused on the US and Canada, so a station with 100 W and simple wire antennas can do very well. The chase for the Clean Sweep is always a thrill, and the contest exchange -- with the serial number, entry class, your own call, check and Section -- makes it one of the most challenging events on the contest calendar. If you make a mistake on any one of those elements in the exchange, you lose the QSO. Sweepstakes is lots of fun, but it also brings out the best in the best contesters.”
A favorite quest during Sweepstakes every year is to try to earn a “Clean Sweep” by working at least one station in all 83 ARRL/RAC Sections. Reach this elite level and you can purchase a highly desired Clean Sweep mug for your accomplishment! Also, each ham who makes a Clean Sweep will be recognized with a Clean Sweep stick on his or her certificate. 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 are also available.
If you are a regular CW Sweeps enthusiast, then you already have the first weekend in November marked on your calendar; the SSB running of Sweepstakes is always the third full weekend in November. 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 2012 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.
“The November Sweepstakes is a great event for contest expeditions,” Kutzko noted. “Do you want to help others get a Clean Sweep and be the DX for a change? The Top 10 rarest sections in the 2011 CW Sweepstakes were Northern Territories (NT), Newfoundland/Labrador (NL), Manitoba (MB), Nebraska (NE), North Dakota (ND), Puerto Rico (PR), Delaware (DE), Arkansas (AR), Quebec (QC) and Mississippi (MS). Consider operating from one of these Sections this year and enjoy operating from the ‘other side of the pileup.’”
Beginning with the 2011 Sweepstakes, the Single Operator Unlimited (U) and Multioperator (M) categories were 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.
A change that was 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 83 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.
The ARRL November CW Sweepstakes runs from 2100 UTC Saturday, November 3 through 0259 UTC Monday, November 5. Complete rules and forms can be found online. All logs are due 15 days after the event is over -- for the CW Sweepstakes, this is 0300 UTC Tuesday, November 20, 2012. Paper logs are still accepted, but electronic Cabrillo logs are preferred. Contest clubs are encouraged to help their club members submit their log electronically. 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.
ICOM is the Principal Awards Sponsor for the ARRL November CW Sweepstakes.