Posted on 10/16/16, 1:51 PM

Maximizing contest score (Op Practices Only)
Posted by Jarred - KF2MR

I would like your help to "crowd source" an article for the November RVHFG Journal. Please offer your input to the topic discussed below. A few sentences to explain your input would be great. I am only looking for operating and planning practices this month.

Title: Top 10 ways of maximizing your VHF Contest Score without any changes to your radio equipment.

1. Spend more time in the seat - This is an obvious but overlooked strategy. Used heavily with #2 below.

2. Call CQ - There is nothing worse than tuning through a band to hear nothing but the same multi-op calling CQ. Must be a dead contest right? Wrong. There are probably a dozen people doing the same thing and tuning through the band. If just half of them were to pick a wide open freqency and call CQ for 10 minutes, things change quickly.

3. Learn and use CW - This cannot be emphasized enough. Contacts above 432 and long haul troposcatter contacts on all bands are frequently performed using CW. 13-20 wpm is plenty, no need to be a speed demon.

4. Setup an account on ON4KST and use it - You will find not only locals, but several stations in Canada, PA, Ohio and New England who are easily within reach if you followed the advice in #3 above.

5. (What ideas do you have. Can you offer a sentence or two to describe you idea?)

Posted on 10/16/16, 2:34 PM

Re: Maximizing contest score (Op Practices Only)
Posted by Tom - KV2X

When you complete a Q, always ask for other bands.
Practice band switching so that you can quickly complete another Q.

Posted on 10/16/16, 5:25 PM

Re: Maximizing contest score (Op Practices Only)
Posted by Ev - W2EV

7. Establish and use standard operating procedures and STICK to them. Call CQ on 2 meters or 6 meters and then try to move stations to other bands if you can (NOTE: HAVE ALL OF YOUR OWN BANDS OPERATIONAL AT THE START OF THE CONTEST).

7a. Practice and use STANDARD phonetics. Practice in your car by spelling out street signs in your head, using standard phonetics.

7b. On SSB, CQ with simple cadence that you repeat. "CQ Contest CQ Contest CQ Contest this is W2EV, Whiskey 2 Echo Victor, FN03 Contest" wait 5 seconds, repeat. Srlsly.

7c. When ending a SSB contest contact on your own CQ frequency, end by IDing and asking for other contacts! Either ask to work on other bands or end with ... "Roger, 73, Whiskey 2 Echo Victor in FN03, QRZ?" wait 5 seconds and start CQing.

7d. When ending a SSB contest QSO after answering someone else's CQ, say, "73, W2EV is QSY up 5" and then call CQ there.

7e. If more than one station responds to your CQ, "cue them up" by saying "I hear two stations, lets start with ____". That way, the weaker station will stay (hopefully).

Posted on 10/16/16, 5:28 PM

Re: Maximizing contest score (Op Practices Only)
Posted by Ev - W2EV

8. Get to know who is active so that their callsigns are familiar (and thus, easier to hear in marginal conditions).

You do this by 1) being active through a few contest and 2) reading/studying contest results.

Posted on 10/16/16, 5:30 PM

Re: Maximizing contest score (Op Practices Only)
Posted by Ev - W2EV

9. Use the ARRL 10 meter contest as a training ground to familiarize yourself with "talking and logging" at the same time (along with QRM and QSB)... and becoming familiar with logging programs. Technicians can operate this one easily!

Posted on 10/16/16, 5:33 PM

Re: Maximizing contest score (Op Practices Only)
Posted by Ev - W2EV

10. Be known to Rovers as a station that is easy to work (because you've applied the operating principles outlined here) and dependable (because you follow their operating schedule and are there to be worked when they are setup to operate. As time goes by, you will improve your station to work them farther and farther away and they will eventually look for YOU. This takes time...but is well worth the reward in higher scores for you, them and the club.

Posted on 10/16/16, 5:37 PM

Re: Maximizing contest score (Op Practices Only)
Posted by Ev - W2EV

11. (sorry...I gotta just keep going, Jarred ... grin) If you have a station that simply doesn't play well from your home...transfer your equipment to your car and rove or operate portable (power limitations apply to portable, though).

My old call was WB2ELB and I used to rock the QRP portable category by loading everything in to my car and parking on a hill for the entire contest to operate...then driving home! I could work stations with 10 watts from a hilltop that I couldn't hear from my house nor work with 100 watts. Srsly.

Posted on 10/17/16, 6:47 AM

Re: Maximizing contest score (Op Practices Only)
Posted by Ev - W2EV

12. When 'running the bands', keep chit-chat to a the deed...make the QSO...move to the next band (always asking QRZ before QSYing in case there are others following you).

12a. Run the "easy" bands first. BDAC is a good order, as it puts the easiest bands first and C (222) last because it is the least popular of the "easy bands".

12b. Try to maintain a "coordinating" frequency to go back to if you fail to make a band. Go back there to coordinate on other bands.

12c. If possible, identify the frequencies to use on each band at the beginning of the band-run.

Posted on 10/17/16, 6:52 AM

Re: Maximizing contest score (Op Practices Only)
Posted by Ev - W2EV

13. DON'T BE THAT ROVER, who is out to make QSO's with a single mega multi-op at the expense of making QSO's with everyone else who would like to log you, too.

Of course, we do this all for fun and if that is how you "have fun", understand that it comes at the expense of your score...and sends bad vibes to other participants.

Plan your time to assure that others who are active get into your log with enough time to spare to make it to your next grid.

Posted on 10/17/16, 6:59 AM

Re: Maximizing contest score (Op Practices Only)
Posted by Ev - W2EV

14. Rovers...get a 2nd operator as allowed by the rules. Assign roles to each person. Go out and contest together, learning how to interact in the "heat of the battle".

It's Ok to invite different 2nd-ops for a while, too! You are exposing others to the Roving aspect of the hobby and building competency in others. This benefits everyone!

Posted on 10/17/16, 7:02 AM

Re: Maximizing contest score (Op Practices Only)
Posted by Ev - W2EV

15. Home stations: Every once in a while, invite someone to join you as a multi-op...for the same reason as #14's "second op" above.

Your score (and skill) will increase and you will build interest and enthusiasm in others that will have a longer pay-back horizon...but it is good to think "long term", too.

Posted on 10/17/16, 7:49 AM

Re: Maximizing contest score (Op Practices Only)
Posted by Dave VE9CB

If you hear someone using SSB who can't seem to hear you, try calling them in CW. They may hear the CW and start turning the beam so you can complete a QSO. Cross-mode QSOs are completely acceptable.

Posted on 10/17/16, 9:32 AM

Re: Maximizing contest score (Op Practices Only)
Posted by Harry W2HRY

I cant take credit for any of these- I have learned all of them from observing Jarred- KF2MR.
Prep for Contesting: At home or in a rover set up: Buy a small digital label maker. Label all your coax connections with the band or freq. I found it useful to also label mobile antennas at the base. It helps in troubleshooting and set up.
Systems Check: Check and adjust all your SWRs in Mobile setups before going out, especially when mounting Mobile antennas in close proximity to one another. Have then all set up before checking SWR.
Logging: Invariably things will get hot and heavy. Buy an inexpensive voice recorder with time stamping capability and have it on. If you fall behind in logging it can save your score.
Vehicle set up: If you run a temporary rover set-up run coax thru windows and use foam pipe insulation on the window and window frame to keep from pinching coax and damaging seals.

Posted on 10/21/16, 12:53 PM

Re: Maximizing contest score (Op Practices Only)
Posted by Russell VE3OIL

These are listed in the order they occured to me:

Practice, get on the air for other events. VHF will not have the noise floor issues of 80 and 160 metres nor will it have the wall to wall QRM of 20 metres but the skills developed on those bands will improve your VHF skills.

Learn how to change bands smoothly and then quickly; make interpreting any and all offsets and quirks of your gear second nature.

Learn when to work this station now (without peaking the antenna) and when you should take the time to line them up.

Keep a general (or detailed) list of already worked multipliers on each band so that you can make an informed decision to take 20 minutes to get this new one in the log.

If a band fails during the contest make a considered decision to investigate now or later. When the initial investigation is complete make a considered decision to repair now or prior to the next contest. Once the decision is made pursue it with vigor.

Don't be afraid of the key, we were all terrible at some point (and some of us go backwards when it is cold and dark and we are tired).

Be aware of the time and tide of the contest when you are extending the contest QSO into a discussion. Sometimes the discussion attracts attention, sometimes it gets in the way.

Listen a lot while at the same time you make a significant amount of noise.

Spend less time worrying that the next band won't work and more time seeing if it does.

Learn how to run your gear cross mode (some of them are a real pain).

Do something. Call CQ, meet a sked, check KST, listen, take a (time limited break) because you are getting numb. All have their place but make an informed decision how and when you are going to be in front of the radio. Other things will keep you of the air at times, make sure you are invested when your bum is in the chair.

Be patient when things are slow AND when things speed up. When there is cogestion, don't race. Step it up but don't overspeed so you start tripping over yourself.

Examine what you do well and what you don't. It is probably more enjoyable to focus on what we do well and polish it but often improving what we don't do well (possibly because we don't like it) will give greater and faster reward.

Don't stop planning/scheming/hoping for the next upgrade but during the contest the best system is the one that is in front of you, powered up and connected to an antenna. Improving is for later (soon), operating is for now.

Get a good chair, desk and lighting; the radio will make you tired enough.

Posted on 11/03/16, 8:47 PM

Re: Maximizing contest score (Op Practices Only)
Posted by Duncan, K2OEQ

When calling CQ, include your grid square! If a station hears you weakly, he won't know where to point his antenna unless you give him a hint! The same goes for answering a CQ, give the other station an idea of where you are.

It was mentioned before, but bears repeating: don't be afraid to switch to CW if the other station cant quite copy your SSB signal. But check what your rig does (frequency wise) when you switch modes. I found out the hard way that the IC-706 switches to your SSB carrier frequency when you switch to CW. If that happens, the SSB station will not hear you. (I solved it by programming in an offset in TX, but it was cumbersome to do. My new radio transmits CW in the middle of the SSB band.)

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