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North American CW Sprint Set for September 8 UTC


The fall running of the North American CW Sprint, sponsored by NCJ, is this coming weekend. Many operators believe it levels out the playing field, making it the most fun of any contest. An operator must QSY (change to another frequency) after making a single contact where he/she initiated the contact by calling a CQ, or by contacting a station calling CQ and “inheriting” the frequency after the CQer leaves. According to the rules, the greatest number of contacts that may be made on that frequency “is limited to two.”

Categories are few and simple. High Power (up to 1,500 W), Low Power (up to 100 W), and QRP (up to 5 W) are the three main options, and everyone is Single Operator, with no assistance permitted. Teams are encouraged, with a limit of five operators per team. Groups of more than five can form as many teams as they want.

Only three bands are in play for the NA Sprint — 20, 40, and 80 meters. On CW, most of the action is centered on 40 kHz up from the bottom, between .030 and .050. Stations with lower power or less experience can find plenty of good pickings around the edges of the action. CW speeds can be intimidating, so send at your comfortable speed, and ask them to slow down (QRS), if needed.

The exchange consists of the other station’s call sign, a sequential contact number, your state/province (USPS abbreviations apply) or DXCC entity, your name, and your call sign (these elements may be sent in any order, but there is a protocol; see below for examples). Locations are US states (for this event, Hawaii is considered to be in North America), the District of Columbia, all Canadian provinces and territories, and all other North American DXCC entities per the CQ World Wide DXCC categories. Non-North American stations may make contacts only with North American stations for credit to both operators, but these do not count as multipliers.

The QSY Rule

With the unusual rules of having to change frequency after each contact on your frequency, the sequence of the exchange is important, and is one of the unique (and tricky) aspects of the Sprint. It’s a key recommendation that the station staying on the frequency sends his/her call sign last. The station leaving sends his/her call sign in the first part of the exchange. Here is an example showing both:



“N1XYZ W5ABC 78 Dave NM” (W5ABC sends his call sign ahead of his exchange information; he’ll be leaving the frequency)

“W5ABC 92 Tom MA N1XYZ” (N1XYZ sends his call sign last, since he may “inherit” the frequency for one more contact.)

W5ABC: “TU” (or other confirmation)

Now it’s N1XYZ’s turn on that frequency, so listening stations may call immediately after the final “TU” (or other confirmation) by W5ABC.


“W4DEF N1XYZ 93 TOM MA” (Note that N1XYZ now sends his call sign after W4DEF, not at the end of his exchange information)

“N1XYZ 72 Rod SC W4DEF” (Rod sends his call sign after his exchange information, since he now may remain on frequency and make one more contact)

N1XYZ: “TU” (or other confirmation)

It helps to program these separately or to use your logging program to do this for you. It sounds complex, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it. Stations are required to move at least 5 kHz after a CQ QSO or 1 kHz before calling another station.

The North American CW Sprint takes place on Saturday evening from 0000 to 0400 UTC (Sunday, September 8 UTC). Any contact started before the bell rings at 0400 UTC may be completed but be careful not to start early or run over.

Most important: Read the rules first!

The NCCC Sprint (NS) is an excellent “test bed” for the North America (NA) Sprint. This takes place every Thursday evening (0230 – 0300 UTC on Friday). — Thanks to Jim George, N3BB