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The Sweet Spot & the Zone

Bill Fisher (W4AN) on August 18, 2000
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The Sweet Spot & the Zone.

One of the things I have learned and been more keenly aware of the longer I contest is something I call the sweet spot. I've never discussed it with anyone else, but I'm absolutely sure that the best guys are all keenly aware of it too. It's that place or thing or knowledge that guys who are up and coming seek.

So what is the sweet spot? The sweet spot is the place at a given time during the contest where you operate, and the style in which you operate at that point in time. The sweet spot might be 15 meters. It might be the band edge. It might be sending 50 WPM. It might be sending your callsign every 3rd QSO. Some times the sweet spot is found by moving the frequency just a few hundred hertz one way or another. It's making sure you have equal elbow room on both sides of you. It is knowing that someone that you can't hear is running guys in your target area on the same or nearly the same frequency.

The sweet spot is a perfect set of decisions made by an operator at a given station, in a given location, at a certain period during the course of a contest. The sweet spot is the thing every contester should seek during the course of a contest.

There are three components to the sweet spot:

  • Band

  • Frequency

  • Operating Style

You have to pick the right band, and once you are on it, you have to pick the right frequency. Finally, you have to operate in such a way as to take greatest advantage of your other two choices.

To me, finding the sweet spot is the interesting part of operating a contest. Regardless of my final result, if I felt good about finding the sweet spot, I had a great contest. Location, station, and propagation are all things that after the contest start are out of my control. Finding the sweet spot is what the contest is about.

Finding the sweet spot for me is the same thing as being the zone. Experience is the only thing that gets you in the zone. It's like anything else in life... when you have done it enough it becomes second nature. The zone can't be explained. It can't be taught. But, when you are in it, there is nothing else. You make decisions with complete confidence. You have complete focus. The rest of the world ceases to exist.

Here's to finding your zone!


Bill Fisher, W4AN

Member Comments: Add A Comment
The zone Reply
by N2MG on August 20, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
The zone is great! I've managed to find it several times (short-lived, however) during contests. As an engineer, I often (not often enough) find myself in "the zone" when designing (software especially). It's a place of "understanding" where you can "see" all or most of the pertinent issues. In contesting, that's having a clear running freq, good propagation and signal, a rhythm, etc. It always takes a bit of luck, but experience improves the chances. Nothing's worse than having that zone, once achieved, broken by distractions - that's why I wear headphones at work and during contests. It's either CW or Mozart!
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