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Thoughts on the ARRL 10 Meter Contest

Dan Levin (n6bza) on June 13, 2000
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One of the things that Iíd like to see on is a set of articles on each of the major contests. Since the ARRL 10 meter contest is my favorite, Iíll start with that one. One caveat Ė while I am an avid and active contester I am not a big gun by any stretch of the imagination. These are my opinions Ė take them with a grain of saltÖ

Each of us enjoys contesting for different reasons. For me Ė high rate and good DX make my day. I enjoy domestic contests like Sweepstakes and CQP, but the rate isnít as high, and there is limited (or no) DX. I also love the Ďrealí DX contests (ARRL DX and CQ WW), but again the rate doesnít tend to be as good or as steady for U.S. stations. WPX is a great contest Ė but that will be the topic of another story.

The ARRL 10 meter contest has it all. It is an Ďeveryone works everyoneí contest Ė so the rates are great. Here from the Western U.S. we open the morning with runs into Europe, then settle down for a solid day of stateside contacts before ending with Japan and the rest of Asia. The rate never really drops from the time the band opens around 15:00 GMT until it closes around 03:00. I routinely run at between 150 and 250 per hour on phone, which really keeps the adrenaline flowing! A winning station in SS SSB will work around 2,000 QSOís. The SSB winners in the 10 meter contest work closer to 3,500. To top it off, U.S. stations can do as well as (or better than) DX stations. In part because DX stations have a longer exchange, the top U.S. stations usually make more QSOís than the top DX stations.

In addition to rate, the 10 meter contest has great DX. When the band is open (during good parts of the sunspot cycle), you can work around the world on 100 watts and a dipole. With everyone concentrating on one band, there are plenty of interesting stations on all the time. Working 10 meter DXCC during the contest is well within reach Ė 70 countries isnít even all that hard.

Finally, the 10 meter contest has two other major advantages.

It is a family-friendly contest. Because the band closes after dark, you can still have a late dinner with your kids and get a good nightís sleep without feeling guilty. You donít have to spend next week recovering from a 48 hour marathon like CQ WW. For those of us with youngsters, this is a huge benefit.

And last but not least, because it is only one band, you can be competitive with a relatively simple (and cheap) station. K6LL routinely places in the top ten with a tri-bander at forty something feet. You donít need two radios, stacked 20 meter yagiís and 1000í beverages to be in the running in the 10 meter contest. One good radio with decent IF filters, a basic amp (an SB-220 works fine), and one good antenna is enough to have lots of fun and do pretty well.

So all that said, here (in no particular order) are some thoughts on how to have a great time and put up a good score in this event. Most of this is from the perspective of a fairly small U.S. west coast station with a phone bias, perhaps others will add their own points of view.

  1. Donít miss the openings. Spend enough time on the band in the weeks before the contest to know when 10 is open to EU and JA from your QTH. Africa, South America and the South Pacific are nice Ė but the bulk of your QSOís and mults will come from W, EU and JA. Be especially sure not to sleep-in so late Saturday morning that you miss the early EUís Ė you may never hear those mults again. Good sources of information are the propagation charts in QST, and propagation pages on the web (e.g. ).
  2. If you donít have a beam, build one! A good 3 element direct 50 ohm feed yagi for 10 meters can be built in a day, mounted on a Radio Shack push-up mast, and turned with a TV rotor. L.B. Cebik has a site ( full of great ideas for 10 meter antennas. The W6SAI design for a direct feed 3 element yagi on a 12í boom is excellent bang for the buck. The difference between a vertical, G5RV or a dipole, and even a 2 or 3 element yagi is huge. It doesnít have to be that high to work well on 10 meters Ė 35 feet is probably high enough.
  3. If you already have a beam, build another one! (hi hi) The ability to beam in two directions at the same time is a major step up, and will lead to much higher scores. I built a small 3 element yagi to stack with my C-3E for the 10 meter contest in 1999 ( Ė that let me beam the U.S. with the low antenna and either EU or JA with the high one (using an Array Solutions Stack Match to split power). What a huge difference it made!
  4. While you donít need a band plan for this one, you do need a strategy. Map out the mults that you expect to work, and get a plan to work them. If you have a big enough signal to run, then let most of the mults come to you. Maybe sweep the band once every 2 hours or so. On Sunday morning, make sure you have all the easy EU mults before the band closes. Donít miss ON or CT because you didnít take the time to do a little S&P. The same goes for ZS and any other easy Africans from your QTH. Go looking for them Sunday late morning if you donít have them in the log. If you have a smaller station, remember that the big guns will be begging for QSOís on Sunday. Donít spend 30 minutes on Saturday morning in a pileup for WP2Z when you can work him in 5 minutes on Sunday.
  5. Be efficient. When 10 is open, there is no QRN. The band is wide enough that even during the height of the contest there is empty room above 28.500 on SSB. If you are going to run, find a good spot where you can hear well, and run. Donít repeat yourself. Be friendly, but donít waste time. The difference between:
  • N6BZA, QRZ?
  • Whiskey One America Whiskey
  • W1AW fifty nine cal
  • Thanks, fifty nine charlie tango
  • Thanks N6BZA QRZ?


  • This is Nancy Six Bravo Zulu Alpha, QRZ contest?
  • Whiskey One America Whiskey
  • Whiskey One America Whiskey, thanks for the call OM, you are fifty nine in California from Nancy Six Bravo Zulu Alpha
  • Thanks, fifty nine charlie tango
  • Ok Whiskey One America Whiskey, I QSL your fifty nine Connecticut, thanks. QRZ contest from Nancy Six Bravo Zulu Alpha

Is the difference between a rate of 250 and a rate of 150 per hour.

  1. Have fun! The 10 meter contest is a great contest for first time contesters. You will work lots of folks who recently got their 10 meter HF privileges, or who just wandered into the contest. Be nice. Be friendly. If we make contests fun to participate in, more casual ops will work us Ė and that makes it a pleasure for everyone.

I hope that others will argue that SS or CQWW are the king of contests, but for me the ARRL 10 meter contest will always be my favorite. With a couple of more years of good propagation to come, we can all look forward to great fun in mid-December. Good luck, and Iíll see you on the air!

Member Comments: Add A Comment
Yep, this contest is great! Reply
by KL9A on June 14, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
1999 was the first 10m contest I have ever run. Boy was it FUN! I made over 1800 q's (99% on CW) with just a low TH7 and no EU opening! There were tons of mults, and the band was open 24 hours a day... just not to EU. There was always a signal on. I'm looking forward to this year.. maybe it will open to EU, then I can post a big score :)
I am not sure if this is my absolute favorite contest, but it's one I will always try to get into. I worked all states in just a few minutes under 3 hours on 10 cw... not too shabby!
-Chris KL9A
10M contest Reply
by n0jk on August 7, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
At the peak of the solar cycle the 10M contest is a blast. Even little pistols can work lots of DX and make plenty of contacts. Operated Dec 1999 at 8P9JO and made almost 2,000 QSOs s/o l/p cw - would have made more but qsyed to 6M when it was open!
10m contest Reply
by kb7rta on October 17, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
This was the first contest for which I sent in a log (1999). I spent time scrounging aluminium and was able to put up 2 of the OWA design 6l beams. One fixed on EU at 66 ft and one rotating at 99ft, phased with a stack match. I have a th7 at 33 ft that fills in the low stuff. For having no experience, but a bunch of energy, I made just over 2000 Q's and about 120 mults. I discovered the seduction of the rate meter. Hours of 200/hour sucked me in and I forgot about my plans to hunt mults every so often and on Sunday. The result was a low mult count, but HUGE fun level (also first place in the Oregon section). Plan to see me back in Dec. with a 3rd beam at 33 ft on the same tower and better self-control, more mult hunting.
So far , my favorite contest!!
Thoughts on the ARRL 10 Meter Contest Reply
by g3pjv on November 29, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
i will be opperating inthe 10m arrl contest for the first time. I have never done a contest on h.f before, but when i was a novice the first 2 meters contest i did i won. I now have a class A u.k licence and am going for the h.f contests and at only 15 years old i have plenty of energy and enjoy all aspects of ham radio. I will be doing the contest as G3PJV/P with a simple setup : my icom ic720a, cushcraft r7000 at 30 ft and a 3 ele monobander (built by myself) at 30 tf see you in the contest
Thoughts on the ARRL 10 Meter Contest Reply
by ZL3GA on December 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I echo all the comments above, it's great fun and I'm really looking forward to this weekend!! Don't forget us down here in the Sth Pacific, last year I surprised several W's on our Sunday morning (2000z)when they heard me calling!! CU in the contest!!
73 de Geoff ZL3GA
New Zealand
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