I have always enjoyed operating amateur radio contests.
The primary reason of course is that there is a chance one can work a new country on a new band. And the second reason is that all the scores from past years are available online and you can see what you must do to set a new record and see your score posted. It’s all a bit of a fun game because as soon as you set a new record there is always somebody in your area that wants to knock you off. Scores increase every year because to technology, equipment and skills continue to get better each year.
Over the past 8 years I was part of the ZM4T Contest team of 8 enthusiastic contesters. We won many certificates and plaques from our superb location about 30 Km north of Napier up in the hills with sweeping views in all directions during the time we were in operation. You can catch up with the adventures of the East Coast Contesters at www.zm4t.com We were all getting older and some members gave built their own contest stations. Our last major operation was in 2013.
2014 was the first year with no contest team so I decided to do a few of the major contests from my home station. It is hard going as I don’t have the location or big antennas but the added bonus is the urban noise which is a pain. Strangely, 2014 has been quite successful and I am surprised some of the certificates below have come my way
Why do amateurs Contest? Aside from the competition of knowing where you station rank there is a lot of satisfaction doing a contest well. For me it the buzz of getting in the “Zone” The on screen contesting software has has various windows to tell you how well you are doing as and operator. Sometimes, when radio conditions are very good there will be 50 or even a hundred other stations calling you and you have to sort their callsigns out and type them into the computer very accurately. After a while you get lost in the zone and the windows indicate you are working 150 – 200 or more per hour and what a buzz it is.
CW (Morse code) contests are actual easier to do then microphone based voice contests as CW is so precise to listen to. There are penalties for getting callsigns or other exchange wrong. After the contest, you must forward your log of sometimes 1000 plus contacts to the contest organizers and your data is checked by computers against other submitted logs from around the world. If you get it wrong, the contacts are disallowed and worse still, they are deducted from your score. An error rate of below 3% is considered very good! I have been in one contest this year (2015) and hope to do a few more.
73, Lee ZL2AL