Category Archives: Radio Contesting

This N That

It has been a while. I wish I was prolific but alas things get in the way. This week I spent the week organizing a secondary meeting out “west” to accommodate some club members that cannot possibly get to our normal weekday and evening meet up in the North of Dallas. As a result we are having a Saturday meet up in Arlington for club members out towards that center of activity. Writing letters, making pdf attachments and creating mailing lists made me feel somewhat useful again. A rhetorical question for some of you old timers out there…..Have you ever felt discounted by your age? It almost seems as though younger folk discount our older folk’s “shelf stock” of ability due to our advancing age. If they only knew……

I had an interesting discussion with a friend about contesting and competition in general. The long and short of it is my friend was disappointed in his results when compared to a second buddy near him that had a comparable station. After much analysis (and I mean sliced every way from Sunday analysis) it came down to his friends use of “spotting” nets vs his use of “no spotting nets”. For my friend, search and pounce on his own was “his” fun. Digging them out on his own was a special aspect of his contesting fun that in all essence “Kept him coming back year after year”. Well, talk about apples and oranges….Firstly, the scores were not that much different, secondly, the hours in seat were similar. The difference came from being assisted. After a lot of thought we mutually came to the conclusion that changing his game to compete with his buddy most likely would spoil some aspects of what he enjoyed and may ruin his “fun”. IMHO that isn’t worth a better score.

Almost every station/operator is unique. If you are competing, then make yourself the target rich environment. Year over year comparisons with your station and your equipment are what matter most. Are we improving, losing or just marking time? There is far too much variation in geography, equipment, and a persons “personal equation” to make external comparisons anything more than academic.

The nature of the human animal is to be competitive. We humans almost always turn whatever we are doing into a sport. We have to be disciplined enough to recognize that sport and competition cannot ruin our enjoyment of things. To that end I am reexamining my core principles with respect to my hobbies. What keeps me coming back? With Radio Sport for me it is mostly social. Sure breaking a pileup late on a Sunday against impossible odds for a new mult is certainly fun. But being part of the shared effort by joining into something is more fun. Perhaps this is why I enjoy Multi-Single so much more than any other category of contesting. It leaves time to sleep, cook, eat and spin those tales that ultimately become the most cherished contesting (lo radio) memories. Ive left a lot unsaid here. Anyone that has participated in any sort of radio contesting will undoubtedly know what I am talking about. It is, after all, as much about people as it is about winning, losing and applied technology.

This brings me to my last point. Peer pressure to perform. For better or worse, Radio Sporting tosses the best in with the least. That is part of its’ charm and also a curse. This occurs locally, nationally, and world wide. If you are a club member, the natural tendency is to gravitate toward having performance anxiety. Not in the usual sense but with radios! There’s that peer pressure again. One may tend to “not show up” because of perceived lack of score or not enough time to do well or make a worthy contribution. Nonsense! Lets not get the little mixed up with the big as my father used to tell me. You’re playing on a worldwide stage but your only competing with yourself. What you do year over year is what matters if competition is your draw.It is possible that competition is not your draw in which case _any_ score submitted is a good score. It is, after all, your fun! This has to remain fun or we all go away. To that end I suggest we all revisit our core reasons for playing at Radio Sport. Find those elements that keep you coming back and build on them. At the same time recognize that your core elements change over time and be sensitive to those changes. That, my friends, will keep us grounded and help us to find rewards with our pastimes over many years.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

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Posted by on March 25, 2012 in Radio, Radio Contesting


Contesting- ARRL DX Phone 2012

Every once in a long while one is presented with an opportunity to do something very special. Recently, because of our organizing a small and local contest club, an opportunity presented itself to play radio at a very special place. Last weekend, we journeyed to the southern reaches of our State of Texas to play some radio at what I will call euphemistically “Radio Disneyland”. Nothing I have ever done with Ham Radio comes close to this experience. However, along with opportunity comes responsibility so work was involved and indeed happened. It took me two solid days of operating to get my sense of hearing back in gear. With antennas like these one can hear a pin in Belarus drop on a soft carpet. A four yagi stack and a two yagi stack for each high band position. A high yagi non stack for each high band operating position. The description and photos are not and cannot possibly do justice to this accumulation of hardware. You can enjoy it from its own web pages by visiting here.

Along the way I managed to snap a few photos that also do not do justice. It was a hoot. It was fun. It was intimidating. All I can say is wow!

The station belongs to non other than George NR5M and I would like to make a public “Thanks” to George for the opportunity to play some radio at this station. Also there are a lot of supporting staff that play a large role in anything like this and so a “Hats Off” to Kenny and others who helped make a comfortable weekend for us all.


Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

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Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Radio, Radio Contesting


New Area Contest Group

Lately I have been attending the stirrings of a new Amateur Contest Group here in North Texas. Beginning late last spring, a few erstwhile fellows began meeting in the Far North Dallas area with the intention of activating, or at least testing the waters, to see if sufficient interest levels exist to support forming a contesting group here. The local group seems to never meet, and has no web presence so we are building one.

Simply stated, the core principle at work here is fostering any level of interest in contesting that we find and trying to help it flourish. Licensed? Not Licensed but interested in learning? Come on down! We are a collection of mostly mid-sized stations, with a mixture of seasoned and some with only light experience, some with nothing more than curiosity and enthusiasm. Thanks to N5UI (George) we have a web presence ( ) and a reflector at Yahoo Groups. So far interest is growing and many of the participants enjoy meeting up once per month on the first Wednesday at a local watering hole as noted on the web site. Structure is loose and we are trying to keep performance expectations such that this can remain a hobby vs being treated as “work”. Those that can play in a contest will play, and those that choose, can avoid playing in contests that do not interest them much. Joining is as simple as signing up at the web site. Needless to say, many war stories ruminate within the confines of the Bier Garten on First Wednesdays!

Like myself, many of the guys have residential restrictions and so have to maintain a lower profile. Is there a place for small pistols or mid-sized stations in a world of giant “mega stations” that grab all the column inches in Ham Radio Journals? We think so. In fact we are predominantly smaller suburban challenged stations with small footprints. QRP? Fine. Just submit a score. Activity is key. Even if only marginal activity. At some point the confluence of face to face meets combined with a free weekend and pretty soon something magical begins to flourish; slowly at first and then into something very rewarding. Improving skills, your hardware, learning or just plain socialization; contesting is a fruitful and entertaining way to spend a few hours relearning old skills or making new ones. The thrill of discovering a new opening, or having an unsuspecting new friend teach you a new twist on an old familiar technical issue or just doing a multi-single with like minded fellows sharing a family recipe for “Rolling Thunder Contest Chili” or “Chili Ding” (Hormel in a microwave ) or sharing a special new blend of coffee while wondering who will be the latest chap to try to steal the run frequency? It isn’t for everyone I realize, but for those that experience a weekend of contest fun and weed though the QRM, there isn’t anything like it.  Admittedly, the best of all my Ham Radio memories are contest memories. Those memories all stem from the mixture of wonderful people, fresh challenges and idiosyncratic episodes that defy description and later impart a joy that really has to be experienced to fully appreciated.

Wonderful things begin to happen when a garden is even minimally tilled. Our monthly meeting and the ever present contest opportunity provide the garden. Participation is the cultivator. Come join us for an enjoyable evening over a meal or perhaps a session in front of your rig, where technology can meet new faces and fun almost always breaks out.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Morse, QRP, Radio, Radio Contesting