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Contesting Online Forums : Tips : Contest Operating Plans Forums Help

1-5 of 5 messages

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Contest Operating Plans Reply
by WK0F on September 21, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Although I have been a contester for years (small pistol), I would like to hear from other contesters both big and small, to find out how they prepare for a contest propagation wise, reviewing past contests, band plans, operating tips, etc. I have searched the web looking for help creating operating band plans but came up blank. I realize that bandplans are determined on your geographic location, but any help would be appreciated.
RE: Contest Operating Plans Reply
by K8GU on September 22, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
The contest strategy problem is an interesting one. Propagation and activity can be guessed at, but not precisely acertained. I usually base my operation on the following:

What is the overall strategy for the contest? -- SS, for example, has few multipliers; building a large score is dependent on having lots of QSOs. Once I have lots of QSOs and my rates slow down, I become more concerned with finding the multipliers I don't have.

How did I do last year? -- I look for times when I had good and bad rates and ask myself why.

How did everybody else do last year? -- Read the score summaries. I particularly like the band-by-band breakdowns for the leaders. (CQ does this for CQ WW). You can tell how top operators maximized their efforts. The 3830 reflector is a good place to do this, too. Watch trends with solar data, too. Some stations post hour-by-hour rate...that's helpful, too.

Who's gonna be on? -- Find out which DXpeditions are going to be on and try to work them on every band you can. You should know from experience when the bands are open from your part of the world to theirs.

Try to be a relief operator from a multi-op in your area or talk to other operators who operate from the same region. Experienced multi-op contesters who specialize in certain bands can be a wealth of information. Sit down with them while they're operating and pay attention to the way they balance S&P and running, how they take advantage of propagation (scatter, skew path, long path, etc), and how they handle themselves in pileups and runs.

Finally, just keep track of everything that you see and do that works and doesn't work. Spend most of your time doing what you and your station excel at. And...have fun.
RE: Contest Operating Plans Reply
by N4SL on September 22, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Hey, good question. I can only answer for what I've found to be valuable.

1) Go over the last 2-3 year's logs, specifically rates/hour. I discovered in SS I was going to bed too early (2AM Pacific time, I'm in WWA) because my QSO rate was low. However, my QSO rate the next morning was FAR lower for the first 2-3 hours - the bands weren't open yet. I always operate all 24 hours so this is important. I discovered my rate in the last 2 hours was really dismal so I extend my evening operating LATE and try to have my 24 hours in at least one hour before the contest ends.

Of course, I'm in the NW so band conditions are quite different for me from most folks. I work about 65 QSOs on 80m... when I lived in Virginia I worked about 450 QSOs on 80m!

2) Compare your log breakdown w/ the others in your section (ARRL contests) on the internet. They breakdown # of QSOs per band and it can be a real eye-opener to find people in the same catagory are working TWICE the number of QSOs on a particular band!

3) In the 2002 10m contest I got up on a whim at 4AM Pacific Time just-in-case we got an early-morning opening to Europe (we do, sometimes). On Saturday AM, I was the ONLY HAM in my section working the opening that lasted an hour. The only one. Sunday at 4AM there were a TON of local guys all hoping it would happen again - I don't know how they found out about it but they missed it (and I won the NW Division in Single Op High power CW only because of that one decision). So that comment that people who specialize in a certain band knowing little tricks is very true.

4) Get on the bands as much as possible the three days before the contests to see how the bands are doing at what time of day to where. it's a confidence builder to have a good feel of when to change bands.

5) Get a 2nd radio and operate SO2R. It's a real challenge but your score goes WAY up.

6) Record the contest and listen to sections. I cringe when I've heard myself screwing up a good run by sending CW too slowly or whatever, then I check and see WHEN it was, boy was I tired.

7) If you are having nice runs, send the code pretty fast. On the afternoon of the 2nd day when it slows down, QRS and catch all the non-contesters and casual ops who WILL answer you at 15WPM but won't at 25+ WPM. In SSB contests, if it gets really slow, don't be afraid to say "Anyone can call, you don't have to be in the contest". That was my first contest QSO ever in 1973 and I still remember what a gentleman that guy was.

8) The QRPers come out on the afternoon of the 2nd day - you can run them for a long time up in the higher part of the CW band but you've got to open your RX filters a bit and LISTEN a lot.

I'm sure you'll get more responses, but analyzing the last 2-3 years of log for that contest was the #1 way I improved my score.

73, Steve N4SL Machias, WA CN88xa
RE: Contest Operating Plans Reply
by N2MG on October 2, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
This topic could definitely be classified as one of those "secrets". Not that folks don't want to share the info, but that it's quite difficult to do so.

What your plan will be depends on the characterisitics of you and your station. What your strong bands are (strong for the particluar contest - not all antennas are as good for DX as they are for domestic), what your experience is (with the contest, the location, etc.), how serious you are about the operation (how many hours you plan to operate).

One can often come up with a rough idea based on last year's results. "Rough" being, say, what band (or two) to focus on in a given hour.

It's definitely an iterative process, coming up with a plan. It's one that takes many contests to develop. It's look will change as your experience increases.

73 Mike N2MG
RE: Contest Operating Plans Reply
by k4za on October 6, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
K8GU's remarks are excellent, & to the point. Once you've determined/decided what your goal is (which may be different for different contests), simply follow that advice.

There is not substitute for operating--getting on the air right before the contest, following propagation patterns, & knowing what your station is capable of, & so forth.

Then following your plan, or being able to modify it as condition changes, is a critical component of success. Write down some goals, then reach for them.

Do NOT get discouraged. Contesting requires a special skillset, which will improve over time. There are no secrets. There is great fun, learning, friendships, & a "zest" that's sometimes missing from other ham radio activities. It is a self-fulfilling process--as you get "better at it," you will have more fun, & so forth.

GL & vy 73!

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