Contesting 2014

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  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

The biggest Contest in world. The CQWW sets the standard with over 7,000 entries every October from every country in the world.

The biggest Contest in world. The CQWW sets the standard with over 7,000 entries every October from every country in the world.

The ARRL International DX Contest is on every February and attracts entries from all over the world

The ARRL International DX Contest is on every February and attracts entries from all over the world

The ARRL 10M Contest is for single band operation and is very popular during the years when the Solar sunspot activity is high

The ARRL 10M Contest is for single band operation and is very popular during the years when the Solar sunspot activity is high

This is an interesting contest as it is done with the PC keyboard and mouse only.

This is an interesting contest as it is done with the PC keyboard and mouse only.

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

Top Awards

Awards are interesting for us Amateur Radio Operators to chase. There are over 2400 awards around the globe sponsored by every radio society in every country.The top awards usually take a minimum of 15 to 20 years to accomplish and get the certificate on the wall. Others are available for making contacts with just a few areas in a small country. Seven top awards are listed below:

ARRL DXCC Honour Roll Plaque – Mixed 337, Phone 329, CW 326
ARRL 5BDXCC – DXCC on bands. I have DXCC on 80m, 40m, 30m, 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m, and 10m
ARRL DXCC Challenge 2000 (I currently have about 2075 and am working for the 2500 level
ARRL 5BWAS – Worked all USA States on 5 bands
CQ 5BWAZ Worked All Zones. I have 198/200 confirmed
WAE-Top The European Award for working over 70 countries and 300 band/modes in    Europe. I have the First one ever issued to a ZL.
WAA – Worked All Americas – Achieved by contacting every country in North and South America
WAJA – Achieved by working every one of the 47 Prefectures in Japan
Maple Leaf Award Plaque. – For Working over 50 Prefixes in all 9 Canadian Provinces
DUF-4 and DUF Medal – French Award for working all French Provinces.
A1-Operator Award – You cannot apply for this award. It is awarded to you by ARRL and your fellow radio amateurs who nominate you.

Award hunting never stops as no ham ever achieves them all at a top level which is why the challenge is always there. It is a lot of fun making contacts with for instance all 50 states in the USA or all the provinces in Canada or all the Oblasts in Russia or all the lighthouses in South America. Some awards are historically interesting like the Nine Dragons Award which requires contacting alll nine countries that Kublai Khan conquered in Asia hundreds of years ago. You learn a bit of history and a lot of geography in chasing some of these awards and that is part of amateur radio.

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Wouf Hong Legend

The Wouff Hong – HamRadio Folklore or fact?

The Wouff Hong Midnight Ceremony Certificate

At the conclusion of the 1962 ARRL Canadian Convention in Toronto I was pounced upon just before midnight, blindfolded and forcibly removed to another room in the hotel. My blindfold was removed and in the creepy candlelight ceremony that followed, I was inducted into the R.O.W.H (Royal Order of the Wouff Hong) by a panel of my peers. The Ham who signed the certificate is a SK and in thinking back to that time 45years ago most of my hereos and peers are all SK’s. I have no doubt that the principles of the organization are still alive.

So to those of you that practice “rotten operating” or other nefarious practices in front of a microphone or a key beware! The darkforces of the awful terrible WouffHong may be applied to you. You may run the misfortune of being savaged with a Rettysnitch for your lax operating practices and suffering the tortures of the damned from the awful terrible Wouff Hong. Think about that the next time you are in a pileup, or forget to check your “split” button. Ponder the consequences of calling out of turn. 20Db of compression will surely bring the wrath of all those who have passed before us upon you. The R.O.W.H still lives on.

73, Lee ZL2AL 🙂

The Wouff Hong and the Rettysnitch: Lost Traditions? – by L. B. Cebik W4RNL (SK)
“The Wouff Hong is amateur radio’s most sacred symbol and stands for the enforcement of law and order in amateur operation.” “The Rettysnitch is used to enforce the principles of decency in operating practices.” (The Radio Amateur’s Handbook, 1930, p.11)

The Awful Terrible Wouff Hong

By 1930, the Handbook had pictures of both instruments of enforcement. By 1936, only the Wouff-Hong appeared, and by 1947, the Handbook had deleted both photos. Just when we needed traditions of law andorder and of decency in amateur operations to guide its growth in the post World-War-II explosion of technology and easier licensing, the symbols had disappeared from view. Many of today’s hams have no idea what a Wouff-Hong and a Rettysnitch look like.To rectify that gap in hamdom’s essential history, I have used my very limited CAD abilities to make sketches of the Rettysnitch in Figure1. The Rettysnitch is an all-metal tool. Ofthe 5 teeth aroundthe disk near the pointed end, only three remain.

According to tradition, the other two have done their work and perished in the effort. Again, my limited skills in rendering the Rettysnitch rob the device of its terrible demeanor, and therefore of its force to ensure operating decency among amateurs. Perhaps the last time the story of the Wouff-Hong and the Rettysnitch was told was in 1934.Thanks to Ed Guilford, AA7HQ, inBothell, Washington, I have the May,’34, QST in which Rufus P.Turner–famous in the annals of electronics writings recounted “Hamdom’s Traditions: A Bedtime Story for Young Squirts.” But even by Turner’s time, the Rettysnitch was relegated to a paragraph on the story’s continuation page in the back of the magazine, with no picture.Somehow, even then, folks had forgotten that you can never have law and order without first having decency.

Some pessimists think that we now have neither. I do not subscribe to the pessimist’s view. Sure, the number of rotten operators has skyrocketed, but not their proportion to the main corps of good, legal, and decent operators, capable and courteous to a fault. We should not be troubled by the size of the job of curing amateur radio of its illegalities and indecencies,for we have more folks to help use the Wouff-Hong and the Rettysnitch just where and how they ought to be used. No, not on others, but on ourselves, to make sure that we set a model for how amateur operations ought to be conducted. Turner offers no prescription for using either device, but thought the Wouff-Hong able to be at out King Kong’s brains or easily plow up acres of Manhattan bedrock. That will tell you something of the power of these machines.But it won’t tell you how they came to be.

Remember T.O.M.–The Old Man–who wrote in earliest days of”Rotten QRM.” His very first article in1917 blasted concocted abbreviations just coming into use. Among the almost unintelligible gibberish in his headphones were words like “Wouff hong” and “Rettysnitch,” surely instruments of terrifying punishment. By mid-1917,ARRLwas besieged by orders for these contraptions, orders that could not be filled because the League staff had never seen either device. In 1919, after WorldWar I (thencalled simply the Great War since no one could imagine doing all that destruction and killing all over again), the League once more took up its work in earnest. At just this critical time,the Directors received from The Old Man a package containing an authoritative and well preserved specimen of Wouff-Hong. Turner described the contents of the package as “the
gruesome instrument of torture. “By order of the Directors, it was hung in the office of the Secretary-Editor, within easy reach. Its first portrait appeared in QST for July that year. At each Board meeting, the Wouff-Hong stood on display, to the blanched looks of the humbled Directors. The Old Man also presented the world with its first glimpse of the Rettysnitch.


In 1921,the monstrous machine was presented to the League traffic manager by the Washington, D.C., Radio Club, ostensibly after receiving it from T.O.M. Even at its first public appearance, two of its teeth were missing, suggesting a long history of necessary and effective use. However,to this day, the Rettysnitch has lost no other teeth. It was ordered to hang by its mate. In the 20s and 30s,many a reproduction of both instruments,but especially the Wouff-Hong, materialized across the country. (The photograph of one such replica of a Wouff-Hong is courtesy of Joe Holstein, N8EA.) The two main pieces appear to be wood banded by metal strapping and by heavy wire. What the sketch cannot convey is the darkness at the upper end of the longer wood piece, as if stained by blood or purified for its grave duties in the fires of purgatory or both. A group of hams in Flint, Michigan,created the mystic society called the Royal Order of the Wouff-Hong. The society endures to this day, according to legends to which I have so far not been privy. And The Old Man has been given a name: HiramPercy Maxim, W1AW. At least, legend tells the story that way, perhaps based on the fact that T.O.M. glared at “Kitty” while reflecting on the “rottenness” of everything.Maxim did have a cat.  However, true to feline nature, Maxim’s ca tnever spilledthe beans.

But what has become of the Wouff-Hong and the Rettysnitch? More important, what has become of their power to enforce both decency and law and order on the ham bands? Hams used to cringe at the thought, let alone the sight, of these dreadful tools of enforcement. But, we do not hear of them much anymore.Oh, a tremor of curiosity every now and again brings out a ripple of questions and speculation. But not much more than a ripple. You see, today,we have much more terrifying weapons, things like Oozies and H-booms and the like.They scare us in ways that seem to make the Wouff Hong and the Rettysnitch tame and toothless. However, even in Maxim’s day, objectively more powerful weapons were used in France, like tanques and gas more poisonous than that made by Texas chili. Why were the Wouff-Hong and the Rettysnitch so powerful to those early hams? Because those hams cared about amateur radio in their hearts. They wanted what they knew they could never have: a perfectly law abiding and decent radio service that would inspire young and old alike to become hams or, lacking the inclination to electronics, to become admirers of hams. Every minute of on-the-air time was a chance to show how noble a pursuit amateur radio was and should always be. They feared the Wouff-Hong and the Rettysnitch as instruments of their own consciences, as they strove to meet the standards they set for themselves.

And that is where today you will find both the Wouff-Hong and the Rettysnitch; deep in your own conscience. If they seem to hold no power, then you know it is time once more to elevate your standards a notch higher,and then to strive to achieve them perfectly.Each of us has a secret and private office where no one else may go. Above the door, facing our individual operating tables, hang two instruments, one of law and order, the other of decency. However much the outside world may neglect the tradition of these terrible reminders of responsibility, each of us posses our own Wouff-Hong and Rettysnitch. May you never deserve their sting.

Like all legends,this one too must end with special words: Pass it on and strive for good operating practices.
73, L. B. Cebik W4RNL (SK)

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