The North American CW Sprint

The North American Sprint is a unique contest with unique rules. Sponsored by the ARRL National Contest Journal, a four-hour CW contest takes place twice a year, the second Saturday evenings in February and September. In addition, there’s a half-hour mini-sprint each Thursday evening at 0230z that’s sponsored by the Northern California Contest Club. (There are also RTTY versions of the sprints, and the rules are similar, but this article just covers the CW sprints.) The “Sprint QSY rule” requires that once you call CQ and work a station, you must relinquish the frequency and move at least 1 kHz before calling CQ or working another station. This means there is no “running” – a single station can’t sit on one frequency and work stations one after another as in almost every other contest. The required exchange is: both callsigns, a serial number, your first name and your state. By convention, though, there is a unique order to these elements, making it apparent as to who is the CQer and who is answering. Continue reading “The North American CW Sprint”

Rig control and keying

I recently replaced my shack computer, a Dell Optiplex, with a Dell Precision i7 workstation. I generally buy off-lease computers, since they are only a couple years old, well-equipped and reasonably priced, and Linux runs on them just fine.

For contest logging, I’m slowly working in the N1MM direction (there’s a trick or two to running it well under wine), so I still use a DOS-based logging program that relies on serial and parallel ports for keying and rig control. Continue reading “Rig control and keying”

Straight Key Night

Straight Key Night is one of my favorite activities of the year. Even though I don’t spend a lot of time at it, it’s a chance to get on the air at the start of the new year and make some interesting contacts. Many hams use vintage gear to go along with their historic telegraph keys, but my “vintage” gear isn’t up to snuff, so I use the gear that I use regularly – just sending with a straight key instead of the keyer. Since I use the straight key every month in the NAQCC sprints, I’ve kept in practice and can send quite smoothly at around 18 wpm.

If you got on the air for SKN, be sure to send a report to ARRL. It’s one of the few events where participants’ calls are listed in QST, so it’s a great way to get your call listed in the magazine.

CWops

cwops_225Earlier this year, I stumbled upon the weekly CWops sprints when working the monthly NAQCC sprint. Our “quiet” section of 40 meters around 7040 kHz was suddenly invaded by high-speed ops sending CWT and working each other with names and numbers. Sometimes, as QRP operators, we can feel like ants getting squashed underfoot, but among the callsigns were a few I had worked in the NAQCC events as well as some I recognized from other contests.

I recalled seeing the CWops events listed in WA7BNM’s contest calendar, so I checked it out. Continue reading “CWops”