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The 24-Hour DX Contest Challenge

from Pete Smith, N4ZR and Mike Gilmer, N2MG on February 28, 2003
View comments about this article!

A proposal for a contest within a contest

The February survey question on asked for general reaction to the idea of a “contest with a contest”, or CWC – an award or awards in categories not covered by the contest sponsors, using logs from the larger event as the basis for determining the winner. This led quickly to a discussion on the CQ-Contest reflector about the possibility of a 24-hour CWC piggybacking on either CQWW or the ARRL DX Contest, and that in turn leads us now to propose a test of the idea.
Both of these contests are 48-hour events with no operating time limits. Our idea was to encourage more activity in these contests by designing a CWC that rewarded operators who don’t feel able to go the full 48 hours (or something close to it), and who consequently only operate a few hours in these major events, or enter as single-band contestants only. In some parts of the world, operating the full time requires missing work on the Friday before or the Monday after the contest. For some of us, encroaching age or conflicts with family responsibilities make 48-hour contests less appealing.

We quickly settled on a 24-hour category as a good test. The next question was whether to require a continuous period, or permit off-times (like Sweepstakes, or the ARRL 10-Meter contest, to name two popular examples). Since the objective is to increase interest and activity, we felt that an approach that gave operators world-wide, maximum flexibility to set their operating times would best meet that need. Nobody would need to miss one of the peak high-band operating times, for example, simply to fit into an arbitrary 24-hour window; conversely, to win in this category would require raking in low-band QSOs and multipliers, and the decision-making would add an interesting element of strategy.

Initially, the idea encountered a certain amount of skepticism. Of the doubts, the one that we take most seriously is the view that a 24-hour CWC would tend to reduce activity rather than increase it, because some serious ops who now participate for more than 24 hours would limit their operating time to compete for the new prize, and they might outnumber those who would increase their hours of operating because of the incentive of the 24-hour award. It’s not possible, a priori, to judge whether this is right or not, so at the suggestion of Sylvan Katz, VE5ZX, who manages the surveys on, a new survey has been posted for the month of March, which simply asks,

If a 24-hour category were introduced in CQWW or ARRL DX contests, would you:

operate more time []

operate less time []

it wouldn't affect me []

If the survey results appear to support the idea that a 24-Hour Challenge would help activity (or even be neutral), then we propose to go ahead with the first such CWC to coincide with the CQWW Phone and CW DX Contests in the fall. None of what follows is final, but we’re thinking of offering a plaque for the best 24-hour score to the top Single Op Unassisted in each contest, as well as publishing the results on the Internet. More plaques in more categories could be made available if a sponsor were to come forward. The total time could be made up of up to 6 periods, with minimum off-times of at least 30 minutes between logged QSOs.

A station would enter by sending us (the organizers) his log at the same time he sent it to the CQWW Committee. We would process the log to make sure it met the time criteria, and publish a list of the entrants on the Internet. To help us understand the impact of such a new category being offered, we would probably ask entrants to tell us, in the soapbox section of the Cabrillo file, what category they operated in last year, how many hours they put in, and whether the change was due to the availability of a new category. These things could be added to the Cabrillo file with a simple text editor after submission to CQWW. Actual log content would be maintained in confidence, just as is now the case. When CQ publishes the scores, we would announce the winner based on CQ’s log checking, post results on a web site, and a plaque (or plaques) would go out. Simple.

That’s the idea in a nutshell -- a two-stage test, and evaluation of the outcome afterward. We won’t know if it’ll work till we try it.

Pete Smith, N4ZR
Mike Gilmer, N2MG

Member Comments: Add A Comment
The 24-Hour DX Contest Challenge Reply
by VE7MH on February 28, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
I like the idea of a 24 hour contest, with the time segments chosen by the contestant. This offers great flexibilty, and should encourage contesting by those who have not participated previously.

Good luck with the endevour.

Murray Hainer
The 24-Hour DX Contest Challenge Reply
by kr2q on March 1, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Gents: Your concept (encouraging more activity through recognition for "less than 48 die-hards") is a great idea. You have also now learned of the possible negative impact of such an option.

Your next step, to offer another survey is also great, but this time your implementation, IMHO, is off base. You have over-restricted the options (to just one, namely 24 hours). I would suggest a much broader (though not open-ended) survery tool. One suggestion might be to offer the participate (of the survery) a list of ranges for hours of operation and see where that goes. You could also couple it to the survey-takers past contest experience. For example:

In past contests and on average, how many hours did you operate?

_less than one hour
_1 to 3.9 hours
_4 to 7.9 hours
_8 to 12 hours
_12 to 24 hours
_25 to 30 hours
_31 to 48 hours

If you selected any category below 25 to 30 hours, please answer the following:

[then explain the CWC concept]

What do you think would be the ideal time duration for a CWC?

_4 hours
_6 hours
_8 hours
_12 hours
_16 hours
_24 hours

I would increase my "average" operating time by up to _____ hours in order to achieve recognition via the CWC.

_Ø hours, or "I would not change my operating habits"
_1 hour
_2 hours
_3 hours
_4 hours
_6 hours
_8 hours
_10 hours

Just my 2 cents (maybe a nickel's worth here).
de Doug KR2Q

The 24-Hour DX Contest Challenge Reply
by VE4XT on March 2, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
I think the implementation plan by Mike and Pete is logical, not off-base, in that they have kept the initial question simple and the propose to move toward a more extensive test later.

Making the initial question more complicated assumes enough interest in the topic that people will take the time to answer a more detailed questionnaire. If that assumption is faulty, then so are the results.

As to the time line of a 24-hour contest, I would favour the hours be chosen by the participant. It adds more strategy and moves closer to the goal, IMHO, of increasing participation. Family committments often mean that a contiguous 24-hour period is not available, but 24 hours spread across the contest period is. That it means that stations are likely to choose high-band openings to work is not, in my view, as important as increasing participation, particularly since low-band DXing simply is not possible for some ops, no matter how extensive an antenna system they may have. (Here in the black hole, you can't work what you can't hear. And you can't hear much from here, even with the best listening antennas around. The signals often simply do not arrive here at any level.)

73, kelly
The 24-Hour DX Contest Challenge Reply
by N4KG on March 3, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
CWC comments: I think it would be useful to include options for 30 and 36 hours in the survey. IMO, 24 hours puts noticable limits on the amount of time one can spend on the Low Bands while maintaining a presense on the high bands at prime run time. I like the idea of a 30 hour limit which allows for a 'useful' amount of Low Band time, full high band run time, and sufficient sleep. At 36 hours, (which is my typical maximum operating time), there is a noticable lack of sleep, especially the first night. Tom N4KG (ex: W8FAW, WA0SDC)
The 24-Hour DX Contest Challenge Reply
by n4ogw on March 3, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
I'd love a 24/30 hour category. Being on an academic schedule, the CQWW and ARRL DX contests always come near the busiest time of the year for me. I've sometimes do a single-band effort, where at least I can sleep when the band is dead.

If not doing single band, I usually only get on for an hour or two during the ARRL/CQWW. With a 24 or 30 hr category I'd definitely operate more, and you might get that MS mult on all bands...

Great idea Reply
by k2ua on March 4, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Neat idea--one whose time has come. I don't need any encouragement to do full-time efforts on CW, but I would try this in one or two SSB contests. It would probably have gotten me on the air this weekend for ARRL DX SSB.
The 24-Hour DX Contest Challenge Reply
by YU1WC on March 5, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
I like the idea very much, it would encourage more people to participate in the contests more seriously.

Some suggestions:

- Operating more than 24 hours should be allowed. The contester then would chose the 24h slot he/she wants to submit for scoring, the rest is for checklog. This is not encouraging for those who are _really_ time restricted, but in the other hand, brings more activity. We want more stations in the contest, during the whole 48h period, anyway.

- The 24 hour period submitted for scoring must be a continuous one. If it is a competitive category, everyone should be in same position, looking for a best 24h slot during the contest. Otherwise, people aspiring to win would run the whole 48 (36) hours, and then pick up only the intervals the periods of best openings, of best multiplier activity, etc.

- Still, I do not know how intentional repetitive contacts (dupes)could be discoureged. For example, a contester aspiring to win in a 24h category acording to this suggested rules, would operate 48 (36) hours. After the contest, the software checking the log would calculate the 24h slot with the best score. Therefore, the same multipliers would be worked repetively (every six hours, for example), just in case, because one does not know in advance which 24h slot will give best score. That strategy is justified, bud leads to confusion, a lot of dupes and "qso b4" on the band.

- In my opinion, rest time is not necessary in a 24h contesting period. 24h gives you a full cycle of low/high band openings and it is up to you to chose the best strategy. But if the majority wants to have a rest period, than OK, my suggestions remain the same for something like a 30h continuous time slot, with a 6 h rest period incorporated in it, for example.

- When rules are complicated, they tend to complicate further, as we see :). To make it simple, why not take the rule from the IOTA contest (there is a 12h category in a 24h contest). The rule there says: "Multi-operator entries must be 24 hours. In the 12-hour categories, operation need not be for one continuous 12-hour period but, once operation has commenced, off periods should be a minimum of 60 minutes."
The 24-Hour DX Contest Challenge Reply
by k1ir on March 5, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
I like this idea. Nice job, Pete, Mike and Sylvan. My comments and suggestions:

1. Limit the size of the off-time chunks to a minimum of 1 hour.

2. Permit listening during off-time - you can't enforce "no listening" rules.

3. Recognize as many of the existing categories as possible, and permit an entrant to submit scores in as many categories as they like. 24 hour entries in 160 and 10 meter categories from a single station could both be competitive and might encourage more than 24 hours of total operation from a competitor.

4. What will happen to participation? Well, let's think about this. If I was a person who wasn't going to operate at all, I would probably operate the highest rate hours/bands. For the cw contests over the coming years, this probably means 40/20/15 in the day/evening. If I'm a non-US guy, I still won't skip work or school on Friday or Monday - I'm not that serious!

If I were a more serious competitor looking to "downgrade", I would probably plan to focus on the same objectives - the high-rate hours and being able to work on Friday/Monday.

So, I think some participation will SHIFT from the start and end of the contest period to the "middle" hours, and the traditionally high-rate hours will get higher while the current "doldrums" could get worse.

I think the question of OVERALL participation is much more difficult to estimate. What is "participation" anyway? I guess I would say its simply total number of hours operated by all entrants. I didn't look at actual data, but I bet there are a lot more scores submitted under 24 hours than over. If we assume that an equal percentage of each group (above and below 24 hours) will move toward 24 hours, then I think we will have a net increase in participation.

This proposal has little downside rlsk. I support giving it a try - regardless of survey results!


Jim K1IR
The 24-Hour DX Contest Challenge Reply
by K3WW on March 5, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Just to make things more competitive, wouldn't it be nice to permit full time operators to submit a portion of their score, say their first 24 hours of operation,just to see how they stack up against guys that try to operate during the best hours? It would be a little more complicated since published scores would not tell the story. It would solve the problem of a few folks cutting their hours to gain an advantage in the Contest Within a Contest
73 Chas K3WW

RE: The 24-Hour DX Contest Challenge Reply
by n4ogw on March 6, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
>Just to make things more competitive, wouldn't it be nice to permit >full time operators to submit a portion of their score, say their first >24 hours of operation,just to see how they stack up against guys >that try to operate during the best hours? It would be a little more >complicated since published scores would not tell the story. It >would solve the problem of a few folks cutting their hours to gain >an advantage in the Contest Within a Contest
>73 Chas K3WW

You would have to very careful how you define which of the 24 out of 48 is taken, to make it fair for the "real" 24 hour people. If I operated 48 and wanted to enter the limited time class, I could easily write a computer program to analyze my log and "optimize" the choice of which 24 hours to submit :)

NEEDED - a public domain log checker Reply
by VE5ZX on March 6, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
This problem is easily solved with a log checker. Any contacts recorded in other contestants logs during a claimed off period disqualifies the entry. This is an illustration of another need for a public domain log checker.
RE: The 24-Hour DX Contest Challenge Reply
by N2WKS on March 11, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
A 24 hour contest would be great because that is already what I do. Due to religious observance I can only operate from about an hour after sundown Saturday until the end of the contest. Here on the east coast that means about 24hours.
The 24-Hour DX Contest Challenge Reply
by KZ5D on March 15, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Congrats. This idea is long overdue. In 2002 I attempted a "semi-serious" effort in CQ WW CW. Managed about 38 hours. Felt like hell for the next 2 days. Monday work was difficult.
I hate to admit it, but as I get older, the 24 hour contests will be all that I'll be serious in, unless your proposal is acceptable. I don't expect to win, but like to see how I faired versus other guys doing the same thing.
If this doesn't fly, I'll be a "casual" participant with perhaps 12 hours activity.

Art KZ5D
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