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Contesting Online Speak Out

Speak Out: Getting ready...

Operating a contest seriously requires no small amount of preparation. Other than real "improvements" to the station (like installing new antennas) what steps do you take to get ready for a full effort? Do you have a checklist? What's on it? Do you try to get some extra sleep ahead of time? What else?

18 opinions on this subject. Enter your opinion at the bottom of this page.
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Anonymous on 2003-09-27
My PRIMARY focus is to be sure that my WARC band antennas are an GREAT shape at least 100% of the time. That way I can escape the LIDS who are jamming all the other bands with those STUPID CONTESTS!!!!!

on7vz on 2003-09-26
Mike (N2MG) is right. This is the good post :

In general, I try to follow the recommendations of Tim EI8IC. I take a particular care to the propagation analysis (with W6ELProp, VOACAP, dxcluster analysis of the contact for the 3 days before the contest) and try to identify a clear strategy.

In fact, I make everything to be in the conditions to realise a good contest.

The only variables on which I can not intervene is the famous "QRA variable".

You know well this variable. E.g. "Dad, I must go to this place. Could you come with me", "Honey, do not forget this saturday evening that we must visit the neighbours for their dog's birthday" or, as usual during week-end contests, the unpredictable visit of parents, brothers, sisters, ....

In general, such variable reduces drastically my time of operation and consequently, the score I could hope with my little pistol equipment. In this case, even if you make a top preparation, you will never achieve a high score....

Daniel ON7VZ

W7VJ on 2003-09-15
So much is based on attitude. Contesting finds a good analogy in any competitive sport. The mental prep, as others have already noted, is key. Last minute decisions to enter a contest seldom work, at least that has been my experience. Attitude (and a nice east coast location) is everything.

N2MG on 2003-09-10
Here's a good post

Mike N2MG

Anonymous on 2003-08-26
Start alerting the family at least a month in advance. Make sure to be extra productive on house and yard projects for a month ahead of time, (and be sure to maintain that productivity for a month afterwards). Make VERY certain that the family has somewhere else to be if it's a fone 'test, because the last thing they want to hear is "CQ TEST" all weekend.

Oh, and make sure projects at work are caught up, too - most of the time, I have to work half a day every weekend, just to catch up on past projects that "come back". Don't need that on a 'test weekend.

As far as actual station prep - no big deal. Mine's a simple station with wire antennas. There's a backup rig with the same software commands as the main rig. If an antenna fails, I can have a new one up in an hour.

No special operator prep required. I've discovered that if you lead a healthy lifestyle, get the right amount of exercise and aren't overweight, you can pull a 24 hour shift with zero notice any time you want, and compensate with extra sleep over the next few days.

w7dra on 2003-08-20
From my home station, since I have 5 complete stations (2 on 160; 1 on 80,40,20) something is always breaking. The most difficult decision is to decide which SOSB to do, 80 or 160, in the big contests like ARRL DX and CQWPX. I do a lot of portable contesting, /7/0/C5A/KH6/3D2/VE7-6, then I neeed to get the protable rig out on the bench an operate it for a couple of weeks. If it is a local contest, like MARAC/CQP/NQP/WSR, I need a multi band rig. I use an HW16 with homebrew 6AG7 VFO, a second reciever for 20m (SX71 or an HQ120), and a push push 811 40m to 20m amp. Getting all the wires and send receive switches connected correctly takes quite a few evenings to say the least. There are no shortcuts, prepare well and take the time or you are bound for desaster.

kr2q on 2003-08-19
1. Figure out my category of entry

2. Check the existing records

3. Set my goals based on the sunspots

4. Walk the coax runs looking for problems

5. Check the SWRs (if they are too flat, something is wrong)

6. Get on the bands a couple hours before the contest to confirm my starting spot (which band)

7. Remind myself to trust my instincts, which are the result of decades of experience.

8. Remember that HONESTY is the best policy and cheating, even for one contact, COMPLETELY voids my effort, ie, be true to myself. An honest 2nd place score is WAAAAY better than a false first place score.

Anonymous on 2003-08-18
All of my real prep is done months in advance. I have a 'modification freeze' one month before contest season starts (Sweepstakes for me). The only changes allowed are to actually FIX things that break.

That included things like simple cable-dress in the back of the rigs (RFI is not fun in the middle of a contest) and contest SW revision updates - they are frozen one month before contest season and they are NOT changed until the season ends.

I run full power on all bands and all modes several times to check for RFI issues, even if I *know* they are OK.

I do not change my schedule at all; I eat the same food, go to bed at the same time and I shy away from caffeine for as long as possible. Of course, I go to bed LATE on the big night.

I backup my computer SW and files onto a ZIP disk. I actually have practiced pulling the plug on the PC, re-booting and re-starting the SW. I actually practice going onto the emergency generator each fall. I found I cannot boot my PC on just the UPS if the monitor is ON, I must boot the PC, THEN turn on the monitor. I run my PC on the UPS to check the UPS's capacity every fall. Once, I was in for a BIG SURPRISE when it lasted two minutes instead of 20!

I re-check all my cheat-sheets for tuning the amps and transmatches on each antenna and band.

I have backup methods of computer keying, both from the LPT and COM ports and can switch between then in the event of failure in seconds.

I have a 100% backup PC loaded with the exact same files and programs, ready to go. I can transfer the working file (log) and put it into service in 10 minutes.

I have two radios and amps and normally run SO2R but can press either into full service in the event of failure.

I have a cheat sheet for full re-config of each radio in the event of total erasure of settings.

I have never had a failure in a contest but that day is coming and I think I'm ready.

I am waaaaay too anal, I know, I know.

73, Steve N4SL

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