A summary of radiosport topics for the casual contester
I hope I got a chance to work you during the Michigan QSO Party. I was on the air from the Michigan State University Amateur Radio Club station W8SH. The students were home for the Easter/Passover break, so I operated solo. The QSO count was 384, mostly CW on 20, 40 and 80 meters.
As I write this, the Florida QSO Party is about to kick off. Florida usually features many mobiles operating from most of the 67 counties, some on county lines, so it should be easy to pile up county multipliers. The FQP always starts on the last Saturday of April, so this year it’s April 30 and May 1.
The blockbuster of all amateur radio events returns after two years off due to the pandemic. The Dayton Hamvention takes place May 20-22 at the Greene County Fairgrounds in Xenia, Ohio, a few miles east of Dayton. There’s something for every amateur. Besides the flea market, there are six exhibit halls and tents filled with vendor and organization booths, a large ARRL exhibit, forums on every imaginable ham radio topic, and ancillary events that take place off site. The big contesting event is Contest University, which is on Thursday, May 19 at the Hope Hotel. It’s an all day educational and social event, with hour-long classes on over a dozen contesting topics. And on Saturday, May 21, there’s the Contest Dinner, where the CQ Contest Hall of Fame recipients are recognized. And each evening, the Contest Super Suite at the Hope Hotel is open for socializing, with a return of the popular Spurious Emissions band on Friday night. The “Spurs” play popular tunes overlaid with ham radio lyrics that’ll have you laughing and singing along.
The month of May is not without contests, though. More than a quarter of the US states are holding QSO parties all on one weekend! On May 7 and 8, two regional and two state QSO parties feature activity across sixteen states. The popular New England QSO Party encompasses the first call area, and the 7th Area QSO Party brings activity from the western US. Add in Indiana and Delaware and it’s a weekend of busy activity and state or county opportunities. The sponsors of the contests have agreed to accept one log showing all contacts from all contests, so you don’t need to keep separate logs. N1MM Logger+ makes this easy: Just specify IN7QPNE as the state in the QSOPARTY contest type, and the program will log all your contacts.
A brand new contest happens on the weekend of May 14 and 15. The Canadian Prairies QSO Party includes stations in the VE4, VE5 and VE6 call areas (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta). There are 62 electoral districts (like counties) in the three provinces, so it’s a chance to work stations in places you may not have worked before.
The big one that caps off the contest “season” is the CQ WPX CW contest, held the last weekend of May each year. WPX is CQ’s “Worked All Prefixes” award program, where you tally callsign prefixes for awards. The WPX contest features prefixes as multipliers, so your multiplier total will add up fast. Get on the air and work some new ones, make progress toward your WPX award, and just have fun! If you’re a slower CW operator, don’t panic! The slower CW stations usually can be found higher up in the CW subbands (say, around 3550/7050/14050 kHz) and most ops will slow down if you call at a slower speed. You’ll need to copy a serial number, so practice your number copy. One technique is to listen to a couple QSOs by the run station and copy his number; then you’ll have a good idea which number you’ll get when you call.
A contesting tip
You can reduce ear fatigue and improve your copy when the bands are crowded if you turn your RF gain down or add attenuation at the receiver. Many ops run with the RF gain wide open; this can result in compressed signal to noise range and bring up the background noise. By turning the RF gain down, you reduce that drone of noise while allowing signals to pop up, making them easier to copy. Run stations use this technique to differentiate between stations that are calling, as the stronger stations become easier to hear. Try adjusting your RF gain next time you’re on the air and see the difference it makes. (Thanks to Randy, W8FN, for reminding me of this valuable tip.)
- April 30-May 1: Florida QSO Party
- May 7-8: Indiana, Delaware, New England and 7th Area QSO Parties
- May 14-15: Canadian Prairies QSO Party
- May 28-29: CQ WPX CW Contest
Rather than list the rest of this month’s events, check WA7BNM’s Contest Calendar for a complete listing.