This is Frank KE0FDC. I recently participated in the ARRL November SweepStakes Radio Contest and had a lot of fun! The radiosport contests are designed to help you learn and master your radio and to learn to pass traffic and messages quickly and efficiently. My first exposure to radiosport contesting was at Field Day 2016 and I must say that I was bitten by the contesting bug pretty hard! The first contest that I participated in was the North American QSO Party in August. Being new to contesting, I was intimidated by the big powerful stations and worried that I would make a mistake and look foolish. I learned that the big stations running full legal limit of power, 1500W, need all of the little stations running 100W of power. There aren’t as many of the big stations as there are of the little stations. Yes, I did make a mistake by trying to contact some of the stations I had already contacted. They were nice about it and we all moved on. Once I realized those facts I relaxed and had more fun! I found that I like the fast pace of making the contacts. I’m not much of a ragchewer so it was cool to learn that as well.
I participated in the ARRL sponsored November SweepStakes contest held the weekend before Thanksgiving. Armed with the experience and knowledge of my first contest, I was ready for the Sweepstakes! Again I was worried that I would try to make duplicate contacts like I did the last time. I don’t have a computer to enter my contest contacts on, so I do it the old fashioned way by using paper logs for my contacts. Using a computer is helpful because it will tell you if the call sign you enter is one that you have had a contact with already. Yes, I did make some duplicate contacts again, but again everyone was cool about it. Another thing I was worried about was that there was a lengthy exchange, the information that must be sent and received in order for it to be a complete valid contact. the exchange for this contest you had to give and receive the serial number of that contact, your classification, your call sign, the last two numbers of the first year you were licensed and your state. The reason there is such a lengthy exchange is that the information in the exchange is the same information that is asked for on the official traffic form that is used to send and receive traffic in an emergency. Because I was worried about the exchange, I made a card with all of the required information and put it on my radio so that I could get it right which helped greatly at 11PM when I was getting very tired! I ended up operating for a little more than 12 hours. My goal going into the contest was to get 100 contacts, which was 3 times the contacts of my first contest. I finished up early Sunday afternoon when I reached 105. Like my other experiences with Field Day and the North American QSO Party, I was mentally and physically tired, but proud of what I accomplished!
If you are interested in participating in a contest, there are contests taking place almost everyday somewhere in the world. There is a great contest coming up in late January called the North American QSO Party. It is sponsored by the National Contest Journal. It is a 2 part contest with the second part happening in August. They have separate contests for SSB, CW and RTTY. I participated in the second part last August. The exchange is very simple, you have to give your name and your state.
One of the great things about participating in contests is that you don’t have to have a big, high powered station with computers, amplifiers and a huge antenna farm to participate. I don’t have any of that stuff and I still have a blast. Another misconception is that once you start a contest you have to participate the entire time of the contest. You can participate as much as you want! If you get tired, you canget up and do something else for a while and then come back to it. If you get hungry, you can get up and get something to eat or drink. If your XYL needs you to something on your honey-do list you can do that and come back to it. Participating in contests can be great fun, but remember to keep and do the things that are truly important in your such as your family and other responsibilities as your priorities.