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QRP Contesting, Part II - Keynote # 1, 1997

As I said in last month's column, I am going to talk about calling CQ in contests this time around, along with some other details of QRP contesting. Let's get right to it, then if there's any space left, I have a couple of other things to add.

1. A contest CQ should be something simple like CQ QRP K3WWP. The CQ indicates you are listening for any station to call. The QRP (or TEST, SS, etc.) indicates you are in the contest. Then of course your call, and that's it. If no one answers, after about 3 or 4 seconds, do it again, and keep repeating this sequence until someone answers or you finally give up and go S&Ping. Nothing turns me off more than waiting through something like CQ QRP TEST CQ QRP TEST CQ QRP TEST DE K3WWP K3WWP K3WWP QRP TEST K. Isn't CQ QRP K3WWP much better? You don't need the repeats, the DE, or the K at the end.

2. To answer a contest CQ, simply send your call once, nothing more. Either the CQer will get it, and proceed, or he will get part of it and ask for a repeat, or not hear it at all. Sending something like K3WWP K3WWP DE K3xxx K3xxx K again wastes time and doesn't help matters any. When you call, be sure you are exactly zero beat with the station you are calling. Some contesters, especially in the big contests, use very narrow filters, and may not catch your call if you are off frequency. Having said that, I now add that if the station has a huge pileup, you may be better off calling slightly (but not too far) off frequency. It's something you have to learn from experience, but the best rule is to call exactly on frequency.

3. The CQing station now simply sends the call of the station who answered him, followed by the exchange as in: K3xxx 599 PA 1880. You don't need to send TNX CALL UR RST 599 599 IN PA PA MY NR IS 1880 1880 HW? K. I do believe you should say thanks (TU) in contests, but don't draw it out, just the required info, period. If the other station gets it, fine. If not, it is then up to him to ask for a repeat. In the recent QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party, I sent my info this way, and about 75% of the people I worked got my info the first time. Of the other 25%, most of them got it with one repeat.

4. When asking for something you missed, keep it simple. If you missed his section, send SEC?, nothing more. If you are asked for your section, send just that, nothing else. Just send PA. Don't send MY SEC IS PA PA HW? K. Again that just wastes time.

5. Summing up, here is what a good exchange should be like:

1)-indicates stuff sent by K3WWP
2)-stuff sent by K3xxx

(no answer after 4 seconds)
2) K3xxx
1) K3xxx 599 PA 1880
2) TU 599 MD 9999
and so on.

Nice crisp quick QSO's which allow for much more time to make contacts.

Of course, band conditions will modify these procedures, but always keep it as brief as possible. For example, if you sense someone is not copying you well, then send your info twice like TU 599 599 PA PA 1880 1880. A good clue to how well he is copying you is how easily he gets your call. If he has a hard time copying your call, the odds are good he will have a hard time copying your exchange, etc. Play it by ear.

Get to know the good/great contesters, and realize that they will copy your info, no matter what. For example, I know many contesters from working them so many times. Even if their signals are weak, and mine will be weaker, I know they will copy my info right away, and I send it as fast as possible so we both can move on and get more QSO's.

Contesting is an art, and the more contests you enter, the better you will become. Like anything, practice makes perfect. So enter as many contests as possible, even the big ones like the SS and DX contests. Although there is no chance whatsoever that you will win the big prize overall with your QRP signal, you can still have fun by learning something from each contest. Also set a goal before each contest, then do your best to make that goal.

Also remember that by entering each contest, you will become better known among the contesters. When they get to know your call it will be easier to pick you out of a pileup or copy your signal when it is very weak.

Do your best to get yourself recognized as a QRP contester. When reporting your score, ask that your call be listed with a /QRP at the end so others will know you did it with QRP. If you send comments along with your scores, gear those comments towards your QRP operation. Be sure to thank the contest organizers if they do something for the QRPer like having a separate QRP entry class, or an extra multiplier for the QRPer. In short, don't keep it a secret that you operated QRP in a contest.

If you do run QRP in a contest, I would be glad to post your score on my web site. All you have to do is let me know. I have been offering to do that for about a month now on the web site itself, but so far only one station has offered to send me his score. My Internet URL is http://home.windstream.net/johnshan/ or you can Email me.

I need ideas for this column. If you have a question about QRP or a suggestion for the column, don't be shy about it. Let me know.

I have had a couple of questions so far, and I plan to devote next months column to answering them. One asks about batteries for QRP operation. I have very little experience with that as my rig operates from AC, but I will do my best to answer it. Another asks about net operation. I understand that plans are in the works for an article about nets, so I may defer on that one. I also have plans to devote a column to the technical aspects of QRP - making sure all your meager RF output from your xmtr gets to the antenna, etc. There are also some other ideas I will discuss with Nancy to see if it would be OK to publish them in the Keynote.

And that's it for column #5, except to say thanks to all of you who have visited my web site, and made such heartwarming comments about it. Of all the clubs and organizations that I belong to, I think the membership of FISTS are the greatest!!! 73.