It Seems to Us: Triple Play!
Beginning at midnight UTC on January 1, 2009 Amateur Radio has its own triple play! This brand new award, created by the ARRL Board of Directors at its July 2008 meeting, recognizes the achievement of contacting all 50 states on each of three modes: phone, CW and RTTY/data. All contacts must be made on or after the starting date and must be confirmed via the ARRL's Logbook of the World! (LoTW) electronic QSL system. So there's no rooting around in dusty card files involved, and no tedious requesting or answering QSL cards -- nothing to distract you from the on-the-air thrill of the hunt!
As adopted by the Board after study by the Programs and Services Committee, the ARRL Triple Play Worked All States (WAS) Award was developed from a suggestion offered by past Vice Director Hans Brakob, KØHB of the Dakota Division. The central idea is to encourage us all to develop operating skills using modes that may be outside our normal "comfort zone." Most of us have a favorite operating mode or two, but few can claim to be equally versatile in all three. We tend to stay in our comfortable ruts, seldom departing from the well-worn and familiar track. Working all 50 states on an unfamiliar mode is an achievable goal, and we're bound to learn something and make new friends during the quest.
Chasing operating awards is both educational and fun. Sometimes a new award can change the face of Amateur Radio. Until 5-Band DXCC was launched 40 years ago, DXing was mainly a 20-meter game. At the time, working 100 countries on 80 meters seemed within reach of just a few well-equipped, highly motivated operators -- yet today, more than 6,500 5BDXCC awards have been issued and the DXCC Challenge (for which you earn credits by working countries on 10 different bands, from 160 through 6 meters) is the principal yardstick for measuring DX achievement. In seeking to earn these and other awards, countless amateurs have been motivated to hone their operating skills and to learn more about propagation, antennas, and improving their receivers than they ever would have picked up from casual operating.
Triple Play WAS is a one-time award: collect the required 150 confirmations in your LoTW account and you're done! Even so, there are many possible variations on the theme. You can try to be the first (or at least the first on your block) or you can set your own pace. Think it's too easy? Limit yourself to QRP while operating your favorite mode (or all three). Maybe you prefer to be the quarry; it will quickly emerge which states are the most difficult to find, offering opportunities to earn the gratitude of your mates by activating the ones you can get to with your portable or mobile rig. North Dakota, anyone?
While Triple Play WAS is not a contest, it happens that the ARRL RTTY Roundup will be held on the first weekend of the New Year. The North American QSO Party takes place on the following two weekends, CW and phone respectively. Contesters are among the most loyal devotees of LoTW, so participating in these three events should take care of all of the easy states as well as some of the more difficult ones. Warning: Once you've begun, filling in the blank spots in your 3×50 matrix is likely to be addictive!
One thing you don't have to worry about when chasing Triple Play WAS is whether you can work a particular path on a particular band. For most amateurs in the US, the most challenging aspect of 5-Band WAS is to work the close-in states on 10 and 15 meters. For Triple Play WAS a contact on any band is as good as one on any other (except for 60 meters, where the special restrictions are incompatible with competitive operation), so for each state you can use the band that is optimum for the distance to be covered. This should bring the award within reach, even if your antenna possibilities are limited.
The new award's launch coincides with the celebrations in our two newest states, Alaska and Hawaii, of the 50th anniversary of their admission to the Union. We can expect some special operating events to be organized during the year by our non-contiguous colleagues!
Don't have a Logbook of the World account yet? It's easy and it's free. In the five years that LoTW has been in operation, more than 22,000 users have uploaded the details of 190 million QSOs resulting in almost 16 million matches -- the equivalent of 32 million QSL cards. Collecting 150 cards to earn WAS on three different modes would cost a lot in time, paper and postage; collecting the credits on LoTW just inconveniences a few electrons. Visit www.arrl.org/lotw and click on "Get Started." Once you're a certified LoTW User you can create a WAS Account where you can track your progress. When you have all 150 credits the ARRL staff will make claiming your award as painless as possible. See page 84 of this month's QST for more details.
Good luck pulling off your Triple Play -- and see you on the bands!
David Sumner, K1ZZ
ARRL Chief Executive Officer