SAC from both sides
Henryk Kotowski (SM0JHF)
December 15, 2006
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Scandinavian Activity Contest from both sides
Even long before I myself became a SM, I liked this contest. I lived in Poland and there was almost always decent propagation to Scandinavia on at least one or two bands. The operating skills were good, sometimes excellent. The results and certificates were mailed promptly.
The term Scandinavia geographically applies only to present Sweden, Norway and Denmark. However, due to historical influences, other countries like Iceland and Finland, as well as Danish and Norwegian possessions are considered as Scandinavia. The proper term for all these entities is actually the Nordic countries.
Here is my first suggestion: change the name of this contest. The Nordic Activity Contest already exists and is a set of 4-hour single-band informal events on Tuesdays and Thursdays of local character on 28 MHz, 50 MHz, 144 MHz, 432 MHz, and 1.3 GHz and above. The Nordic HF Contest would probably be a valid name describing the scope of the event known today as SAC.
I happened to be in California in September 2006 and obviously I was curious to see what could be done in the CW part of SAC. I got up very early, before the sunrise, on Saturday morning and scanned the bands. I could hear US East Coast stations work SM´s and OH´s on 20 meters. At sunrise I heard a TF station working Europe and it took some time before he heard me on the back of his antenna. Half an hour later I was able to get through to Finland and Northern Sweden and later to other areas of concern. This opening lasted for 4 hours and I logged virtually every station I heard on this band. I did jump to 15 meters now and then but heard nothing at all from Europe. Later in the afternoon I monitored 40 meters and heard W8´s and W9´s work northern Europe but no trace of any signals from there.
San Diego, California - a 2 element Delta antenna I used in SAC 2006 CW as K6JHF
The total of 50 QSO´s at the rate of 12.5 per hour was disappointing. The number of participants is ridiculously small and it seems that the operating skills of average operator do not improve as years pass by and youngsters are few in this game.
One week later I was in Åland Islands visiting my friend Sture, OH0JFP. His main radio shack was taken this weekend - Waldemar, SM0TQX was on 20 meters in the SSB part of The Scandinavian Activity Contest 2006. I had brought my radio with me and decided to get on the air from the small guest shack. Sture, OH0JFP has no antenna for 40 meters so I tried my luck on 15 meters. Strangely enough, the band was not dead at all and I managed to get response from all continents. The rate was much lower than in the CW part but the total turned out to be the same - 50 QSO´s.
Some of the antennas at OH0JFP. The 15 meter yagi I used in SAC 2006 SSB is in the center. Other antennas in this picture are for 10 MHz, 24 MHz and 50 MHz.
My conclusions might seem drastic. There is not enough interest for such contests to justify two weekends. Making it a multi-mode one-weekend event will increase the rate and the fun on both sides. Amateur Radio contesting must be fun in order to attract participation. I have heard opinions that taking part in a national contest is a duty, an obligation and a sacrifice. Wrong.
Next thing is to more precisely define the contest rules.
Last year I went to Åland Islands during SAC 2005. I talked Waldemar, SM0TQX into getting back on the air and he spent the weekend on 20 meters as Single Operator Single Band using Sture´s call sign. I myself made some 150 contacts on 15 meters as Single Operator Single band using the same call sign, while Sture himself made 100 contacts on 80 meters as Single Operator Single Band. I did study the published rules of this contest and did not see any restrictions for using the same call sign by different operators from the same location. After the contest the Norwegian Contest Manager informed me that even if it is not written, the Contest Committee has the authority to alter the rules in any way they wish. To prove it, the Finnish Contest Manager wrote to me and explained that if a Single Operator station is spotted on the DX-Cluster or mentioned on the air by someone else, then such SO entry is automatically moved to Multi Operator category because "someone else is helping this operator".
This year, I have already heard demands to add the scores made from Åland Islands to Finland's total score for the purpose of The Scandinavian Cup rivalry, a contradiction of previous ordinance.
The published rules promise Contest Awards and Contest Plaques to top scoring stations but what I've heard, these promises have been unkept for years now.
What is the point of announcing codes which can be freely modified without notice?
There is a steady increase in submitted logs for World Wide contests mainly as a result of the increasing global ham population. National or regional HF contest participation is shrinking due to ageing and antenna restrictions in countries where Amateur Radio was blooming in the 60's and 70's. The number of submitted logs for the 4-hour long Nordic Activity Contest on 144 MHz is well over 100 from Sweden alone. Last year there were 66 CW and 58 SSB Swedish logs for 48 hours of SAC on 5 HF bands. The number of logs from Finland was lower.
Today, the equipment and the techniques permit extreme contest rates and scores for talented operators. More stations on the air during contests are needed. How to do it? I can't tell.
Contesters are minority - no more than 1% of the ham population engage in contests. A handful of them are devoted and sometimes maybe too serious about this hobby. It is often them who oppose changes, protest and complain. Too many contest rules to update? Is the wording too ambiguous? Or are we getting too conservative as we age?
Contest rules need adjustment, just like everything else.
Finally, kudos and thanks to Jan-Erik, SM3CER for his outstanding website http://www.sk3bg.se/contest/ devoted to contesting in general and to Scandinavian Activity Contest in particular.
Henryk Kotowski, SM0JHF & K6JHF
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