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What preparation do you do?

John Ferrington (vk6hz) on October 5, 2009
View comments about this article!


I was just in the kitchen preparing the family evening meal and was thinking about contesting and what effort do others put into a contest.

 So a bunch of questions as I am curious to find out about others preparation…

 1.       Does anyone do detailed analysis of their previous years log? Do you look at others? I have spent many hours doing detailed analysis several logs form last years CQWW SSB and looking at the total logs submitted, gathering information like  i.)how many logs were submitted, ii.) from what continents, iii.) what zones, iv.)  who worked VK, at what times etc….Do you do any analysis of the DX Clusters for the weeks before a contest? How much do you operate the weeks before a contest?

2.       Voice keyers…does anyone in the group use a DVK? How useful is (apart from not losing your voice!)? Do you feel it has increased or decreased your rate? I'm sure this one topic will polarize the group, but I trialed it during the OC contest last weekend and thought it was a good idea on 15 or 20 for CQing in those very slow hours!

3.       Travel - I know there are some hardcore contesters amongst us, some have travelled to exotic locations on a regular basis and have done well. Others have travelled locally and done just as well. How do you guys prepare for a contest? Do you take 2 of everything? Is there anything unusal you take with you?

4.       DO you budget each year how much you will spend on contesting/radio, or is it all ad-hoc spending?

5.       DX Clusters - do you operated assisted? Do you spot any S&P q's or do you think that will give another VK some advantage over you? Is it an essential tool or a hindrance in contesting? I read an interesting article by Martin, VK7GN on the Handling the Packet-pileup (http://www.mapability.com/ei8ic/c ontest/ppileup.php). I'm sure this applies to SSB as well.

6.       Meals/food - do you stop for meals or do you eat on the fly? What do you eat? Do you have a few beers at 5pm on Saturday afternoon while contesting?

7.       Sleep - Yes…sleep….It important for your body to function properly, but when do you sleep during a contest? In the case of a 48hr contest, do you take your break on day 1 or day 2? Do you sleep with the radio on?

8.       Rates - do you do a rate sheet or some kind of strategy before a contest? Do you beat yourself up if you don't make your hourly rate, or do you just play it by ear? Do you set a goal for each contest? Do you get disappointed when you don't achieve the goal? On the other hand, are you ecstatic when you meet, break or exceed your goal? Do you celebrate the achievement during the contest, or do you wait until its over?

 Its time to go and pick up the family and cook them dinner (Honey-soy chicken stir fry for anyone who's interested!) Yes, loads of stuff to think about but I am interested in finding out peoples views and experiences. But I'm sure that you will have your little “secrets” that you wont want to share…

 Happy Contesting!


Member Comments: Add A Comment
What preparation do you do? Reply
by K8DO on October 12, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Well, the first thing after the summer lull from operating - boating time - is to fire up the low band gear and see what needs repairing... The past 3 weekends have been spent restringing beverages, replacing a 1000 foot run of RG6 that those little deer feet had sliced somewhere deep in the run through the briars and the brambles... Next is to get on 160 evenings and mornings and see what is shaking out in the world...

The couple of other things I managed to find was one amp that suddenly (in mid DIT) blew the main fuse - big time (sigh)... I'm still looking for a tube...

The other was one of the remote tuners for the 160 array suddeny began arcing causing the SWR meter to go nuts... A trudge out into the woods in the pitch black of a rainy night revealed the strong odor of burned micarta inside the tuner box - so that tuner is now on the bench, with the charred micarta ground away and ready to be returned to service... It appears that an itsy bitsy spider went up the coil and bridged the primary and secondary windings in mid dit - a couple of fried legs at the scene of the crime revealed the truth... The carbon from his body made a track on the surface of the insulator that quickly became a smoking crater...

Next N1MM was up versioned, then a day later up versioned again as they patched the fix they made the day before... Now it is whining that CTY is not current...
If I keep this up day after day for another month I MIGHT have everything fixed by CQWW - and probably be too tired to stay awake...

denny / k8do
 
What preparation do you do? Reply
by K8DO on October 12, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
OK, I finally actually read the OP...
1. I never look... It's history (boring)... What will be will be...
2. I do use a voice keyer (MFJ) for the one phone contest I run every year... (gawd I hate phone contests - the second most boring thing in this world after history)
3. I work 12 hours a day 6 days a week just to get enough money to keep my rapidly self destructing station from collapsing into a heap of dust... No time for DX on a sarong beach in Tahiti...
4. No budget needed... Entropy sees to it that the station takes every durn penny I have left - after the boat, etc...
5. DX Clusters are for those congenitally destined for the Darwin Award... Jeez, turn the damned dial and LISTEN.... ( dx clusters, mumble, mutter, losers)
6. Don't drink and food puts me to sleep, so it's peanuts and tea during a contest...
7. Too old for 48 hour iron man crap... I work 160 or 80 single band and sleep during the day...
8. Rate? What the heck's a rate? I'm just happy to have someone come back to me once an hour...

So there ya have it... I kinda toned down my remarks so as not to sound opinionated - but if ya need any advice drop me an email - don't listen to those losers like K1AR, K5ZD, K8GL, etc... They don't know crapola from shinola...

denny / k8do :)
Most of my money went to boats, airplanes, and radios... The rest I squandered on food, etc...
 
What preparation do you do? Reply
by KG5VK on October 31, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
1. Does anyone do detailed analysis of their previous years log? Do you look at others? I have spent many hours doing detailed analysis several logs form last years CQWW SSB and looking at the total logs submitted, gathering information like i.)how many logs were submitted, ii.) from what continents, iii.) what zones, iv.) who worked VK, at what times etc….Do you do any analysis of the DX Clusters for the weeks before a contest? How much do you operate the weeks before a contest?

I use K0RC spreadsheet tools to do a thorough analysis of last year and even several years before that a couple of months before November, ARRL SS Phone is my favorite contest and I have been hosting a team of OPS at my QTH for several years now.
So I analysis rates of different ops, to look for periods of time when some are at their best over others and keep this in mind when building the OP schedule
We also look for things like did we make the move from 20m to 40m too early, or make the move to 75m too late
I then take the high Q rates and build goal charts to use both in tandem with N1MM and print charts that ops can see while not behind the mic, these charts with other analysis go in the Shack Red Book

I also use the LCR (Log Check Reports) from the ARRL
I look for why someone logged us as kg5dk versus kg5vk
and then consider listing possible better phonetics we might try during the next contest
these things get discussed with past guest ops
and our consensus on better choice of phonetics gets added to the Red Book


2. Voice keyers…does anyone in the group use a DVK? How useful is (apart from not losing your voice!)? Do you feel it has increased or decreased your rate? I'm sure this one topic will polarize the group, but I trialed it during the OC contest last weekend and thought it was a good idea on 15 or 20 for CQing in those very slow hours!

We do use DVK but not as aggressive as we have in the past, a cq machine does not elicit calls from casual ops as well as a live voice does
Instead during slow rates we utilize the second radio more iow we use SO2R in a multi-op environment


3. Travel - I know there are some hardcore contesters amongst us, some have travelled to exotic locations on a regular basis and have done well. Others have travelled locally and done just as well. How do you guys prepare for a contest? Do you take 2 of everything? Is there anything unusal you take with you?

other than Europe in 1981, I have not done any dx pedition style contest op, yet


4. DO you budget each year how much you will spend on contesting/radio, or is it all ad-hoc spending?

I budget by spending on the wife first, then we try and stay under 1K each year
most years we spend far less, others we spend several times that
Crane rental is not cheap so we try and do scheduled maintenance every five years on our higher antennas
that require a crane

5. DX Clusters - do you operated assisted? Do you spot any S&P q's or do you think that will give another VK some advantage over you? Is it an essential tool or a hindrance in contesting? I read an interesting article by Martin, VK7GN on the Handling the Packet-pileup (http://www.mapability.com/ei8ic/c ontest/ppileup.php). I'm sure this applies to SSB as well.

since my contesting is almost always Multi-OP we do use dx cluster
yes we spot what we work during S&P

6. Meals/food - do you stop for meals or do you eat on the fly? What do you eat? Do you have a few beers at 5pm on Saturday afternoon while contesting?

We never have alcohol just before or during a contest, that is for after celebration
we plan ahead and have all the favorite junk food of each guest op that comes
we have pizza at about 3 pm Sunday
it is eat while your not at the mic
so we rotate ops at a fast pace during pizza time

Saturday before the start of the contest (SS starts at 3pm local our time) we have a spagetti dinner or
big pot of gumbo for everyone
the big pot of gumbo usually last thru Sunday night, we might be in the North but we are still in Louisiana and Gumbo rules !!!!!!!


7. Sleep - Yes…sleep….It important for your body to function properly, but when do you sleep during a contest? In the case of a 48hr contest, do you take your break on day 1 or day 2? Do you sleep with the radio on?

SS is a 30 hour contest but only 24 hours on the air
so barring a Saturday night or late afternoon thunder storm we plan our sleep period from midnight to 5 am
this leaves us one hour Murphey's Law buffer (we plan on the un planned)


8. Rates - do you do a rate sheet or some kind of strategy before a contest? Do you beat yourself up if you don't make your hourly rate, or do you just play it by ear? Do you set a goal for each contest? Do you get disappointed when you don't achieve the goal? On the other hand, are you ecstatic when you meet, break or exceed your goal? Do you celebrate the achievement during the contest, or do you wait until its over?

see my answer to number one, but I will add we try and not get discouraged
if our rate is less than our goals
we must focus on the now
someone recently said on one of the reflectors that contesting is a Now experience
we work that that we can Now !
we always strive for higher rates, SS is a rate contest more than anything else
We are always extra pumped when we beat our rate goals

73 and c u in SS phone November 21, 2009
steve
KG5VK
 
What preparation do you do? Reply
by WD9GJK on December 23, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
The first thing I want to tell you is Read the contest rules over a few times the week before the contest understand all the rules this is a big factor in getting a real good score. For example the ARRL ten meter contest that is held in December CW points are 4 phone contacts are only 2 points I worked more CW than phone and also ask if the CW station I was working could QSY to phone no I have 6 points for the single station and worked him once per mode

Now let me break down you questions in order of importance

1. Yes I do a detailed analysis of prior contests find yourself a good grid square map this works for VHF UHF contests as well as HF contests I find that thru most logging software (I use Scott N3FJPs software suite) I can get this information from QRZ.com by letting the software do the work for me color in the grids and you will see the propagation patterns for any bands that you worked I also keep a detailed list by band of stations worked from the last years contest this gives me calls to look for in the next year and also tells me how many bands that particular operator was using. It is like having a directory at your finger tips.

2. Do I use a voice keyer it is built into the N3FJP software and works great for me. I prefer search and pounce but 15 hours in to a contest the voice gets a little raspy and will let the voice keyer do some of the work by calling CQ for me.

3. I am going to jump to number 6 of your questions Food. Stay away from chocolate and coffee. Chocolate is a short term stimulant but a long term depressant you don’t want to miss some good band openings good solid carbs are ok and keep you going during a contest.

4. Sleep. When the contacts stop that is when you sleep there are times that nobody is operating or the band is just dead time to take a little nap stay in the shack though and try to sleep light listen for the band to open. Remember you can always catch up on you sleep the week after a contest.

I hope this works for you there are many good articles on the internet about contests the one and only thing I can tell you is have fun and Hope your dinner was good
 
What preparation do you do? Reply
by WX7G on July 4, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Log analysis: I do analyze my log and carefully review the contest results. From this I decide where to position my operation (QRP, LP, or HP) and decide what the goal is. The goal can be to win my state, or beat a particular operator.

Travel: I travel 1000 miles for field day and for the 160 meter contests I travel 25 miles to a remote location.

Budget: I do try to budget. X dollars for helium, Y dollars for a motor home rental - that sort of thing.

Food: Self-heating camping meals and coffee in a thermos.

Sleep: I try to go into a contest rested. Energy drinks work to some extent but I go easy on that. With them you borrow energy and must pay it back later.

Rates: I do push for rate and try to keep ahead of last year's score by the hour.

The most important thing is the will to win. Without that it's too easy to shut off the radio and go to sleep.

 
RE: What preparation do you do? Reply
by dl8mbs on August 21, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Preparation of course only if it is one of the few events allowing for enough hours.

Analysis: When comparing to other scores I try to learn about their equipment and their time investment first. Otherwise it is senseless to judge whether there is room for improvement and on what bands and times. It is helpful to have local times in mind when looking for special target areas and looking for more than the few sleepless hardcore contesters in that region. Try to understand activity and operating schemes from logs and read the 3830 reports of last year to understand people in their operating manner.

Cluster/Skimmer: I operate completely unassisted. But after the contest I look whether there have been one or two spots and compare it roughly to the rate that moment. More important I look at the Reverse Beacon Network of skimmers worldwide after the contest to see what S/N-figures were listed there (how I made it into different regions). LP and qrp-stations will have to take the skimmering more and more into account as it may allow to call CQ very high in the band to get called by stations otherwise completely ignoring weak calls. Reason is simple: Too many people don´t tune the band but rely only on what is coming from their computer screens. They may ignore a weak signal normally but feel anxious to leave out something even weaker when offered by a skimmer spot. So its helpful to evalute the best times for such CQs.

Meals/food: If family is there I normally don´t let them alone (so preparation means planning operation times with regard to the family beforehand not during the contest - it is better for ALL). As normal people we are not so much into contesting that we should ignore the rest of our lives. If there where more contests with human activity times or time-restricted categories like in some RTTY-tests ot IOTA... For the intake the operating position itself prohibts anything voluptous. Dry things like simple bread, bananas, enough water. Coffee as late as possible as its efficiency drops quickly (plan and optimize the position of a coffee pot on the operation table!).

Sleeping: Early enough that the three ot four hours necessary help. The break costs qsos first but the increased effiency makes clearly up for it - the brute force league using "every" mean even pharmaceuticals may smile about that but contesting is not worth two nights without sleep (or without some spare hours say on the second morning when more advisable propagationwise).

Rates: NO realtime comparison to previous years! As a qrp op with rather small antenna(s) I´m so dependent on propagation that such a comparison were worthless and distracting. I.e. in WPX CW the sporadic-e-openings or nightly 20m-openings between EU and the US don´t follow such schedules. And doing a contest as a competitor I´m interested in this years ranking not in a comparison to last years numbers. Having the same qso total than last year may satisfy you during the contest but make you look disappointed afterwards if you didn´t notice how much better condx were. Learned from RG9A: "Have as flexible tactics during the contest as possible." Throw away any plans if condx don´t follow your plans. Better follow what condx dictate and dare to decide... So for preparation: Make not one plan but evaluate at least a few alternative plans (a 15m opening in the morning may materialize or not - how to behave in both cases) to save you nerves during the contest.

Have fun!
73, Chris (DL8MBS)
 
RE: What preparation do you do? Reply
by N6GQ on April 25, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
First, since I don't have much (nothing really) in terms of a home station, most all of my contesting is done from a spot I travel to (sometimes local, sometimes DX). That said, here's what I typically do to prep. The bigger the contest, the further I've traveled, the more prep I do usually...

1. The week before, I make sure to get caught up on sleep, tie up loose ends with work and family life so that I won't have things on my mind during the contest. I also want to be able to start the contest rested because I know that my own body doesn't like to be tired, so the more rest I can get pre-contest, the better I'll last.

2. Nutrition-wise, I try to drink a LOT of water in the days coming up to the contest, ESPECIALLY for a phone contest. I also try to make low-glycemic index foods ahead of time and have them ready to eat quickly during the contest. Non-crunchy things are good because you can eat while talking, and not get crumbs all over the desk. Fruit is good in moderation too. I have my own arsenal of vitamins and supplements that I use pre and during a contest to make sure that I have the bases covered. I wrote an article for NCJ on this topic a while back, feel free to check that out.

3. DVK - yes, I use a DVK but only for CQing. I prefer to do the exchange without the DVK, I feel more in control and it's easier for me personally, as I get tired I worry more about the logger controlling things.

4. Pre-contest, I go back and listen to recordings that I have done (for single-op contests) for the same contest, preferably from the same DX location if possible. I find this is a huge thing - recording a contest allows you to go back and pick apart your strategy, your skills, and improve. Also, going through after your LCR arrives you can go through each of the errors and find out what you did wrong. If nothing else, invest just a little cash into a good digital recorder (like the Tascam DR07) and record your contests - you'll be amazed at what you miss.

5. While I'm driving, or doing idle things, I practice the callsign I'm going to use, the exchange, and other things to get muscle-memory in my brain and mouth or fingers in the case of CW. As much as possible, I try to get things to the point of not needing to "interrupt" my brain to function during a contest (from a Computer model).

6. Score-wise, I look at previous contest years and compare scores with propagation, so I know what to expect in terms of competition, and this helps me set goals. I try to have a rough band plan based on current propagation going into the contest. This is something I have off in the distance, I'm not terribly anal about sticking to a bandplan, but it's nice to have it there to keep things moving. When rate drops below a certain point, you need to have a plan, too.

7. When going to a DX location, I try to have a few days ahead of the contest to get used to the station, the propagation, QRM/QRN, etc. from that spot. So I'll try to get on the air as much as possible and run pileups (if DX) to get "in the groove".

8. Things like sleep, breaks, meals, etc. sort of depend on the contest and my level of commitment, whether I'm doing a SOAB thing, or multiop, whatever. So it varies.

9. Lastly, I recognize my weaknesses and try to improve upon those during the contest. For me personally, my weakness is getting involved in the "fun" part of DXing and propagation rather than sticking to the task at hand - RATE! So I find myself wasting (?) precious minutes, sometimes hours, chasing odd openings, paths, etc. just because it's more fun than trudging through QRM or tough band conditions. My other weakness is that when things get slow, I tend to lose focus. So between these two things I have my work cut out for me to improve them. There are many other things I can do to improve as well! :)

The hardest thing for me in a major DX contest is finding/holding a run frequency. Even as DX or operating from a large multi-op station, I still find it hard to do this. Even when I know I'm loud, and even if I know I'm DX, holding a run frequency can be very difficult, especially on SSB, and it's getting worse every year due to major splatter from over-processed signals, everyone is loud, and the like. So for myself, I go the extra mile to do whatever I can to make sure my signal is extra clean by doing audio work ahead of time, making sure I know how I sound, and doing audio checks with friends that clueful about what a clean signal sounds like, and can help get settings just right.

Most of all, enjoy!

73 de N6GQ
 
What preparation do you do? Reply
by w6onv on May 27, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Being relatively new to the contesting field I have been working on developing a baseline for each contest I enter. I review scores on my club web site as well as the contest sponsor's web site and then start to develop a plan. Depending on the contest, I have spent weeks tweaking a plan.

Last May at out club meeting there were two excellent presentations leading up to WPX. One centers on WPX by the numbers and the other was propagation. These presentations got me thinking of how I could achieve a higher score. Using a slide from the presentation I developed my own Excel spreadsheet that takes the contest variables into account.

I then broken down the contest into 48, 1-hour blocks and started to look at propagation and what band(s) and geographic areas I would be working. Each hour is also broken down into what sort of hourly rate I expect to achieve. It might be very basic information for me, as a new contester but in a long contest like WPX is helps.

Since I am a little pistol station (20' hex beam & SteppIR BigIR w 80M) I know I am at a big disadvantage. I set personal goals that I believe are achievable, but that will push me, as an operator and my station. I am thrilled when I achieve my goal. Regardless of the outcome I document what went on, positives and negatives and how I can improve on my score for the next year. It's great being supported by a club because I know my score also goes towards the club competition.

Please feel free to give it a look and provide feedback or use it to create your own plans.

Download: www.the6thfloor.com/images/misc/2011CWWPX.xls

73, Steve
W6ONV
 
RE: What preparation do you do? Reply
by n1ta on May 9, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
I find the most helpful thing to do is analyze both my rate sheet from the previous year and the rate sheet of others from the previous year. I like to see where my rate dropped, especially if others' rates didn't. Also on the rate sheet that is helpful are multipliers; it's nice to see at, say, 0300 how many mult's I found versus the others within that hour.

From this information, it's easier to make a list of times where the rate needs to go up, or where rate can be sacrificed to work mult's (probably most important). With most logging programs (we use N1MM here), you can import goals for rate to make sure you're on-par with your plan.

Of course, the week before the contest is full of other tasks. I like to have the place contest-ready by Wednesday night. Thursday I double check everything and start my eating/sleeping program. Friday at noon, I turn everything on, make one last check, and let the amps warm up. That way, when 0z arrives, all I have to do is sit down (and stay down).

It should also be mentioned that if you intend to download the latest version of your logger - and you should do so - make sure to do it as early as possible. I try never to do it anytime after the one week -out mark. There are often bugs (most of which are easily fixed) with new releases, and it's nice to give the developers time to fix them.

Good luck,
TA
 
What preparation do you do? Reply
by KZ5A on February 5, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
1. Do not bother with reviewing logs, mine or others.
2. Definately use the DVK in my K3 for CQs but do not get into computer generated audio replies.
3. No travel, got bored of Multi contesting yeas ago.
4. No specific budget, no "contest only" accessories.
5. Operate un-assisted in contests where applicable, but use Cluster spots in tests with no un-assisted category.
6. Keep hot tea and low sugar snacks at hand.
7. Do not start low on sleep, but these days usually operate 15M single band since 15M and my normal sleep patterns are highly compatible.
8. Watch rates as an indicator of when to switch between CQing and S&P.
 
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