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The Joys of Contesting

Richard Donovan (n5xm) on December 1, 2000
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As an avid Contester who represents the basic "Little Gun" station, let me say without hesitation that there are plenty of reasons to derive great pleasure from this exciting aspect of Amateur Radio, even without monster towers or multiple mega-amps and FT 1000's, all in a row. We all would love to work one of the big contests from a first-class contest station, but very few of us will ever have that opportunity. Not to worry, the Spirit of Competition, and the rewards for perseverance are alive and well.

Contesting offers us the opportunity to be a member of a fraternity within a fraternity. Our eyes light up when we hear that a fellow Ham is into Contesting, and if enough time is available, the chatter goes into the night. We contesters are enthusiastic to a fault, easily boring the more prosaic members of the Hobby, and lets be honest, Contesting isn't for everyone, and that's fine. Those of us who have the bug, however, are truly hooked. It's a subtle and deep addiction.

The popular attitude among naysayers is that Contesting serves no purpose, and is a complete waste of time. I beg to differ, and would observe that in order to achieve even modest success in Contesting, particularly from the typical "little-gun" station possessed by most of us, it is critical to develop superior listening and tuning skills, and great patience. Furthermore, it takes great timing to break a pileup where you are down several s-units to those who can literally out shout you for a contact. It is very satisfying to bag a sought after DX station by finesse, when the Big Dogs are trying to out shout you, as you move on, leaving them in the dust. Talk about putting a smile on your face.

The final score really isn't important. Contesting is fun, pure and simple. If you aren't having fun, you should find something else to do. Sure, Contesting takes stamina, organization, and a well thought out and functional station, but let's go a little deeper here and discuss why we Contest in the first place. Some of us are pure competitors, while others just enjoy increasing their country, state, or county total. One good friend was into engineering and building antennas. It satisfied his search for perfection. He didn't operate much, but those who did at the station he helped put together really appreciated his efforts and desire to put up perfect antennas and a well-integrated station. 

I enjoy a perfect Contest exchange, elegant and well executed. Some of us enjoy contests as a Social event, particularly on Field Day. I've heard some more experienced Contesters bemoan the inexperienced operators that come out on Field Day, but this is a non-issue for me, as again, pleasure is what it is all about. There is plenty of time to gain experience in making efficient exchanges once you get the bug, and an enjoyable Field Day often is the first step in getting the heretofore uninterested involved into a more serious effort in Contesting. I have had great luck in developing my Contesting skills with the help of some very fine Contesters in my area, Contest Elmers, if you will, and their enthusiasm is boundless.

It is just about impossible to stand still at anything, so Contesting, when pursued seriously, but with the underlying idea of having fun, is a wonderful way to develop some very valuable skills that you can use in your everyday contacts in any mode. Enjoy, and I hope to hear you on the bands soon.

Member Comments: Add A Comment
The Joys of Contesting Reply
by KS4YX on December 12, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Excellent article. I too enjoy contesting, but will never be "a big gun." I am content with my FT-920 and tri-beam on a 35 foot tower. Contesting to me is not against others so much as it is against myself. I do enjoy comparing notes with a couple of other local club members who "tickle" the bands for an occassional contest. Still, the thrill of making a contact with a station in an exotic locations, albeit in the next county or half way around the world, is the ultimate hobby experience for me. I enjoy it and thank all the hams who put up with my poor CW or constant "again...agains." It is also fun to read about such experiences on the web. We really are part of a great hobby. I am glad that I have my license and plenty of good opportunities to use it. Let the "contest" begin!
The Joys of Contesting Reply
by K4QPL on January 15, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Well said! I enjoy contesting as a "little gun." I enjoy the fun, enjoy meeting up with familiar calls, and like to see my skills and scores move up a little every time. You can also set your own calendar for as many or as few contests as you want. I would encourage even the occasional contester to get hooked up with one of the contesting clubs in their area. From my experience there's far more support than competition within the club, there's always something to learn from others, and even when you "duke it out" in a contest you are better friends the next time you meet. Most clubs have a web site and list server which is a great way to ask questions and learn. Finally, don't be nervous about being a "newbie" in a contesting club. Even world class ops like *** and ^^^ whose calls I won't mention are anxious to get more people into contesting.

P.S. Don't let the smiles fool you--they're just looking for fresh meat ;^)
The Joys of Contesting Reply
by W0ETC on February 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
An excellent article and a good read (IMHO). It says what some of us have thought for years but never took the time to put in writing.
The Joys of Contesting Reply
by G3CWI on February 22, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I agree. A well executed exchange is very satisfying (especially when followed up immediately by another...). Small guns should have a go at SO2R, I used it to win the Restricted section of the RSGB's 21/28MHz contest a couple of years ago. SO2R can really make contests twice as much fun. Those slow "little gun" rates start to look reasonable when you're on two bands. I used TRLog with an IC737 and an IC735, no amps and just two dipoles at 33 feet. I had never used SO2R before and it was great fun - and really easy too!
RE: The Joys of Contesting Reply
by w2swl on February 28, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Wonderful article. The challenge competing against one's previous score from last year can be just as rewarding as racking up the top score in a big gun station. Where would the top guns be without the little guns?? The interdependence between us is wonderful!! We still need each other to be succesful in our own indivdual quest!! True, it's not for everyone, but those of us with just the slightest competitve streak, and a desire for improvement, just can't seem to get enough of it. (If only the XYL understood !!).... Thanks for the great article.... 73's John / W2SWL
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