It’s Contest Weekend!
Of course there’s an argument that there’s a contest every weekend (and that’s true) but this weekend is the CQ WW WPX SSB Contest. Starting at 0000 GMT Saturday (Friday night for those of us in North America) and running 48 hours to 2359 GMT Sunday this is one of the big contests of the year.
And good news: There’s a good chance that conditions, especially on the higher bands, could be very good. (The certificate is from G8DYT who took First Place for High Power SSB Single Operator – 80 Meters in 2008. Cool!) Keep an eye on the propagation numbers.
So what does this mean to the new contester? It means your modest 100-watt signal into a dipole (a beam is preferable but we use what we have) on 15 and maybe even 10 meters can provide DXCC in a single weekend. This is especially true if the band opens to Europe in the morning and the Caribbean in the later afternoon where there are tons of separate countries.
In the CQ WPX contest everyone works everyone so you’ll be welcomed with open arms even if you aren’t too familiar with how to work a contest. In WPX the change is readability and strength which is always given as 5 – 9 (or 599 on CW) regardless of the actual signal strength plus a sequential number. You won’t be popular giving out 4 X 8 signal reports. A standard report helps contest stations like the one at K3LR or W3LPL run QSO numbers into the thousands. BTW if you hear these guys on listen to how they handle contests. These stations are the best in the world and are staffed by crews of some of the best operators on the air today. Once you get a sense of how they handle calls, throw your own in there and enjoy the thrill of helping contribute to their success. (These two stations often battle back and forth for top place in their categories in contests all year long.)
Best time for newbees to jump in is Sunday afternoon when you’ll be considered fresh meat 🙂 You might even want to try “running” by finding a clear (okay clearish) frequency on 15 and calling CQ Contest. Listen to how others are doing this and follow their example. If you’ve got headphones use them as it will make hearing weak stations calling you easier to hear.
There will be plenty of other contesters operating this weekend. Last year just under 5,000 logs were filled by the end of the weekend.
One of the other really neat things about the CQ WPX contest is there are a ton of separate categories including single-band entrees where you can work just 10 or 15 meters for example and in that way get your regular eight hours of sleep once conditions cause signals to fade into the noise or multi-multi or multi-single where you can get your friends to help operate. If you’re a night owl you might want to work only 160 meters.
You can run high power (usually the best idea in an SSB contest) or low power (100 watts) or even QRP (a good antenna like a beam is really helpful when you’re running 5 watts or less). Plus you can run assisted (using a DX cluster) or unassisted.
Building a contest station takes time because the number one requirement is consistency. You don’t want to be fiddling with the computer, the tuner, the amp, the antenna or anything else during the actual contest. In fact, the professors at Contest U (coming to Dayton Hamvention May 20-22 again this year) recommend that you don’t change a thing at your station 48 hours before a contest. But anyone can jump into a contest and just have fun.