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

The 2013 CQWW DX Contest

cq_logoCQ WW Contest Dates
SSB: October 26-27, 2013
CW: November 23-24, 2013

Starts: 0000 UTC Saturday Ends: 2359 UTC Sunday

The last weekend in October marks the annual CQ World Wide SSB Contest. The CQWW is a contest for first time participants and also for seasoned fantastical contesters. You will have the opportunity to work countries you have never heard on the air previously. Better still, it’s very easy to do. The minimum you will need is a 100W radio and a wire antenna for any band.

The exchange numbers are very simple. The planet is divided up in 40 Zones. We, in ZL are Zone 32. The number you will be given is 59 (Signal report) and a zone number from 1 to 40. You will always give out 59 32. And the stations you work will be delighted to work you as ZL is still fairly rare. You don’t even need logging software. All you need to do is keep track of the date, Time, Band, Mode, Callsign and Zone. You don’t even have to send in an entry. It is possible to work 100 countries in the weekend and many do. And you will hear them. There will be over 10,000 stations on world wide

So have a go guys! The 2013 CQWW starts Sat 26th October 1PM local (0000 UTC) on Saturday and runs through until Monday 28th at 1PM Monday (0000 UTC) for a total of 48 hours. The best time to listen is mornings on 10M, mornings and afternoons on 15M, afternoons and evenings on 20M and after 6PM local on 40 and 80M

Go ahead, set yourself a goal of 20 or 50 or 100 countries or more. It sure beats listening to a repeater going kerchunck kerchunck!

If I can help… just ask.

73, Lee ZL2AL

The Battle of The Hams

The star of CBS-TV’s ‘Eye on New York’ Bill Leonard reports on a hobby; amateur radio, that is distinguished by one of the most gruelling international competitions in all sport.

On the night of February 7, 1958, a few moments before 2 a.m., Canadian Army Sergeant Elvin Veale of the U.N. Emergency Force stepped out of his quarters into the bitter night air of the Gaza Strip. He was tense, excited, braced for the job ahead. At the same moment, in a Tokyo suburb, Haruo Yoneda, a Japanese TV executive, pushed back a final cup of breakfast tea and disappeared into the tiny room from which he emerged 48 hours later, glassy with exhaustion, and utterly happy.

Sergeant Veale, Mr. Yoneda, Ludvik Kloucek of the Mongolian People’s Republic, Empty in Johannesburg, Eva and Alex in Casablanca, Nose in Hawaii, this reporter and a multitude of others—from Pitcairn Island to Punxsutawney, Pa.—were about to begin play in the oddest, toughest and by any standards the most international of all sporting competitions. This was the start of the 24th annual DX contest for radio amateurs of the world, sponsored by the American Radio Relay League.

DX means distance in the abbreviated jargon of hams (amateur radio operators)—and the object of a DX contest is for one station to talk to as many other stations in as many other places as possible in a prescribed length of time. The Grand National of the many DX contests sponsored annually by clubs, organizations and magazines in dozens of countries (including Russia) is the ARRL’s affair. There are more American hams (140,000) than in all the rest of the world combined (60,000), and in this biggest of electronic scrambles operators in the U.S. and Canada compete against each other and talk only to foreign stations.

Overseas hams contact only Americans and Canadians. It takes about six months before logs, sent from the six continents, can be tabulated and checked. So this year’s winners won’t be officially known until the results are published in an early autumn issue of QST, the official magazine of ham radio. But on the basis of claimed scores, still subject to cross-checking, George Morrow, W8BKP, of Washingtonville, Ohio, and Robert Cheek, W3LOE, of Catonsville, Md., may be the U.S. high scorers for voice and code respectively. Outside the U.S. Katashi Nose, KH6IJ, of Hawaii swept both the voice and code contests for the first time ever.

These, and the other winners in foreign countries and various sections of the United States and Canada, cart away no cash or golden wassail cups. Certificates (suitable for framing—but barely) are the only visible rewards of this tense and exhausting competition. The thrills are not in the prizes or the honors but in a kind of fish-and-hunt excitement, with a voice 6,000 miles away in Rarotonga or Rio de Oro as the quarry.

Depending on just how serious he is on the subject, the DX contest man will not only kill himself in a contest, but he will spend the better part of a year getting ready for the exquisite torture of 48 hours of almost continuous operating. He will plan, assemble and erect, usually at considerable cost and occasional risk of limb, an endless succession of antennas, designed to make his station sound just a little louder in Minsk than the fellow who beat him out last year. He will memorize (if he doesn’t know them all to begin with) the names and call-letter prefixes of every “country” in the world (there are nearly 300 “countries,” for hams count many islands and possessions as well as motherlands). He probably has written or talked previously on the air with a hundred hams half a world away arranging crucial schedules for the contest period. He has experimented with diet and sleep habits, stay-awake pills and coffee strengths and has literally gone into training for the contest ordeal. He does all these things and, in addition, takes a lot of perfectly sensible abuse from what are laughingly referred to as loved ones, because ham radio in general, and a DX contest in particular, is more fun than beating Yale. It may indeed be true that while golf is a game, bridge a hobby and girls an avocation—ham radio is a passion. Like most passions, it is pretty much a mystery to those who are not in love.

Amateur radio, like the airplane, is no longer a crude Kitty Hawk baby. Once it did take a garage full of fairly frightening equipment to say almost nothing to almost nobody almost no distance away. And it took an odd breed of nose-in-the-formula duck to master the intricacies of the spark gaps, tickler coils and reflex audions, to say nothing of the dots and dashes. Today, a transmitter-receiver combination no bigger than a portable typewriter is on the market, easily capable of regular communication with all parts of the world. It is about as difficult to operate as a home hair-rinse kit.

A great deal has been written about the work of hams in national and local emergencies—floods, wrecks and hurricanes. Hams are proud of their public-service record. Perhaps just as important, and frequently overlooked, is the fact that hams are among the nation’s best ambassadors abroad. An estimated 10,000 conversations between U.S. and foreign hams take place every day. The Voice of America considers ham radio of such vital international interest that one of its few programs in English, beamed to Europe and Asia, is a weekly ham show.

There are hams who are housewives (girls allowed) and bandleaders (Gene Krupa), politicians (Herbert Hoover Jr.) and comedians (Arthur Godfrey), kings (Prince Abdullah Feisal of Saudi Arabia) and writers (Ernest Sweet Smell of Success Lehman), ship captains (Kurt Carlsen of the ill-fated Flying Enterprise) and captains of industry (Hazard Reeves, president of Cinerama), guardians of the air (Air Force Vice-Chief of Staff, General Curtis LeMay) and of the seedy (New York Prison Warden Ed Dros). There are hams who are doctors, lawyers, and a sprinkling of Indian chiefs, in India.

Of course, every American knows how radio works, just as he understands television, refrigerators, reciprocating engines, women’s minds and other everyday miracles. But we shall risk a word about how amateur radio fits into the broadcasting scheme.
Radio energy can be pictured as waves, all traveling at the same speed, the speed of light (light, incidentally, is just very, very short radio waves, and our eyes a remarkable radio receiver that tunes in on light waves). Some radio waves are long, only a few of them passing a given point each second. Others are short waves, hardly any distance between crests, but many waves passing a given point each second. The wave lengths used for regular broadcasting are quite long (around a quarter mile from trough to trough). TV uses much, much shorter wave lengths, its channels falling in the so called VHF (very high frequency) and UHF (ultra high frequency) range.

Most of the bands assigned to hams fall in the wave lengths in between, where almost all long-distance radio transmission takes place, not only amateur but military, plane to plane, ship to shore, commercial services, international broadcasting and overseas radio telephone. In the range between 10 and 100 meters the radio waves exhibit the remarkable property of bouncing off a vast electrified layer of the upper atmosphere, called the ionosphere, and returning to earth thousands of miles away. It is a tricky business predicting just how and when which waves will bounce how far, for conditions change violently almost minute to minute, according to a dozen factors, including the season of year, light, darkness and sunspot activity.

Hams can operate in seven narrow ranges, the so-called 10, 11, 15, 20, 40, 80 and 160 meter bands where international DX is common. In addition other VHF and UHF bands are set aside for more or less local work. Hams can use either voice or code, the original and still popular dot-dash method of radio communications. There is too little space on the highways of the ether for the great number of stations traveling on them. So the ham at his own station has to contend with the problem of interference from other hams, as well as the never-ending job of keeping his gear in workable shape. In the early TV days neither ham equipment nor television sets were designed to keep the ham signals from interfering. Now, ham techniques and equipment and TV receivers have improved to the point where television interference from amateurs is a steadily diminishing problem.

Actually, ham radio (ham is a 50-year-old corruption and contraction of amateur) is not simply one activity but many. For the competitive, the rigorous contests are available. But just as all motorists aren’t race drivers, so most hams pursue quieter aspects of the hobby. For the tinkerer and do-it-yourself addict there is equipment to put together, tear apart and put together again, equipment handsome enough and complicated enough to satisfy any hi-fi bug.

The gabber gets a chance to talk endlessly on the airwaves, and the listener can eavesdrop to his heart’s content. It’s not unusual for round-table Kaffeeklatsch QSOs to embrace a dozen hams all on one wave length, but located on all six continents. English is the international ham language. English, plus a set of pidgin abbreviations like OM for old man, hangovers from the all-code days when contractions were the natural result of attempts to speed up dot-dash conversations. Also hams use some of the international “Q” signals, which translate, in any language, into key phrases. A QTH is a location; QRN is static.

There is a little of the collector in us all. Hams carry the stamp dodge one better. For many of them it isn’t enough just to have made contact with the remote Russian republic of Uzbek. Who would believe there was such a place? So every ham has his own QSL, or confirmation cards, proof that the QSO (communication) took place. Cards from all 48 states earn a special Worked-All-States certificate. Even tougher is a DX Century Club award, confirmations from 100 countries. A couple of thousand hams have this one, and a handful have cards from 275 countries, which are almost all there are. Another award (issued by the ham magazine CQ) divides the world up into 40 artificial zones, and the trick is to get cards from hams in all of them. Zone 23 is mostly tundra and Tibet, and hams there are as rare as centerfielders. Robert Ford, an R.A.F. radio operator, put Zone 23 on the map, operating from a monastery for a few months eight years ago. Then he was captured by the Communists and became famous as a man who survived five years of attempted brainwashing and Red torture. When he was released in Hong Kong three years ago, the first Westerner to greet him was a British colonel. The officer was a ham first and an Englishman second. He threw his arms around Ford and cried, “Thank God you’re alive, Bob. I’ve been sweating out your QSL card for six and a half years.”

Some hams concentrate on message handling (two New Jersey high school boys have handled over 1,500 telephone patches—relays—for our Antarctica base personnel), others get their kicks out of Civil Defense work and still others use their sets only to keep in touch with one or two friends who are also hams. Just as strangers almost always start to converse in generalities, often inanities, so do hams. The wonder is—and this is the secret thrill of the game—that you can talk at all, that the little black box you built yourself puts your voice and your mind’s eye into the home and the consciousness of a human being who may be a missionary in the Congo, an undertaker in Sweden or a schoolboy in Uruguay. Whoever he is you will call him by his first name, even if—and this has happened countless times—you are an Air Force mechanic and the other ham is a four-star general. You will probably not know, and if you do you won’t care, whether the lad with the outstanding signal on the high end of 20 meters is tall or short, black or white, Democrat or Republican, Jew or Gentile. And any ham can tell you something about the meaning—or lack of it—of national boundaries. The chances are the fellows he likes to talk to most live a day’s flight and a visa away. Through radio they are in his “shack” daily.

To this aficionado, who has been hamming for just a quarter century, and whose shacks have included an airplane over Addis Ababa, a chicken coop in Vermont, a movie house on Broadway and a hotel balcony in Haiti, the ham DX contest is the hobby at its zestiest. The big one just concluded embraced four weekends in February and March—two weekends of 48 hours each for voice operators, two for CW (code) men. There is no law, except common sense, preventing a single operator from working all 48 hours all four weekends. Indeed, the Hawaiian school teacher named Katashi Nose, whose call is KH6IJ, who is this year’s champion, regularly does just that. Along with a Virginian (Vic Clark, W4KFC), Nose is just about the best all-round contest man. He builds his own equipment, including a set of huge antennas on towers he raised and climbs himself. He is equally adept at key or microphone. His endurance seems endless. Favored with a location comparatively close to the U.S., he regularly exchanges contest serial numbers and reports with 3,000 U.S. hams in a single competition. He and Clark, year in and year out, are among the top scorers in the world. The toughest grind is going it alone. The ARRL rules are very strict about single-operator participation. No one else may assist you in any way, either in keeping logs or repairing equipment and certainly not in touching the key or the mike. There is not much more-than the honour system to support the operational rules, although there is a log check on contacts.

A milder version of most DX contest hamming, including this year’s ARRL affair, is so-called multi-operator participation. Here, a group of hams, prizing sleep more than honour, will get together and take turns operating one or more transmitters at a single chosen station. This is equivalent to joining a relay team, instead of going the mile alone. It’s lots of fun, but hardly as demanding.

Perhaps the most elaborate multi-operator station extant is owned by Hazard (Buz) Reeves, K2GL, a superb technician, whose electronic know-how has paid off handsomely in business. He is president of half a dozen successful companies, all with radio overtones. A sizable section of his Tuxedo Park, N.Y. hilltop mansion and surrounding grounds is devoted to a ham station de luxe. Dominating the landscape are two towers, loaded with antennas, both over 100 feet high. The antennas on the towers rotate—squirting the radio signals in favored directions.

The shack is a 30-by-35 upstairs room, dominated by three 1,000-watt transmitters, three top-quality receivers, a room-long workbench, tools by the hundreds, a tape recorder and special operating chairs designed for minimum back strain, in one of which this particular operator collapsed as utterly as if he had stopped a Robinson left hook, at the end of contests in the years when he used to go it all alone.

It was in this luxurious setup that we shared this year’s ARRL contest. Reeves flew up from Florida to join six others for one weekend of high-speed contest fun. Reeves does little operating himself. His kicks come from keeping the maze of complicated equipment in operation. Most of the talking was done by Dick Dorrance, a New York advertising executive; Fred Capossela Jr., son of the noted track announcer; John Ryan, an Anaconda Copper heir, who regularly flies across the continent to operate from K2GL because he considers it the best station in the world; Gene Kern, chief of the New York office of the Voice of America; and David Rosen, a young radio announcer.

In the first half hour of the contest we touched all continents. Signals churned into receivers from Japan, New Zealand, Morocco, Portugal, Argentina and nearly every other nook that man has wired for electricity. Contest contacts are quick—an exchange of identifying reports, a time check, serial numbers, hello, goodbye, that’s all. But there was time to find out that one of our first contacts was operating from a 1953 station wagon in the Argentine pampas.

Four hours on, four off was our schedule, and before the next day had gone we had worked a rare station in Sarawak, British North Borneo. One of the most unusual of all countries is tiny Kermadec Island, 1500 miles off the coast of New Zealand. There is only one ham there, and he operates on a band that usually carries just a few hundred miles. But with a lot of effort and the help of a New Zealand amateur, we made contact with him.

A DX contest score is arrived at by multiplying the number of contacts by the number of countries, working each station only once. But as you operate on a different band of frequencies you can contact the same station all over again for another multiplier. It’s quite a trick to catch the same overseas station on all HF bands; in fact, not two stations in an average year manage to swing it. But luck was with us, and in a single four-hour period we talked to Bill Vrooman, HH2Z, who runs Haiti’s International Country Club resort, on all seven bands.

The thrills piled up, but so did the problems. Sunday morning the rotating mechanism on one of the towers jammed. We operated at something like half-effectiveness, while Buz fixed it in two hectic hours. Toward the end of the contest a power transformer went west. John Ryan figured out a way to make a replacement spare do the job. Somewhere along the line we were inspired to fashion an extra antenna on the off-chance that it might be useful on a little-used frequency. It wasn’t.

At the end of the weekend we had exchanged reports with 600-odd stations in exactly 100 countries, a creditable score, considering we had only participated one weekend out of two. It was far from a record. We had simply had our fun—enough to tire but not exhaust.
But around the world, Veale in the Gaza Strip, Yoneda in Japan, Nose in Hawaii, and a hundred others who had gone it alone staggered red-eyed to their sacks, surfeited with DX, the voices of the whole earth ringing in their battered ears, vowing they would never go through anything like that again. And they won’t. Not until next year—when it’s DX contest time again.

This article was written by Bill Leonard W2SKE (SK) Bill worked for the New York Post back in the 1950s and was a ham for most of his life aside from being an award winning journalist. Many of the icon legends of ham radio in that period are now SKs but their exploits still live on. Little has changed in the amateur radio contest scene since then. The equipment is far more sophisticated, the antennas a bigger and computers control virtually everything in the station. What does remain is the keen sense of competitiveness to win for your section or division or country or internationally. Contesting is an addiction that refuses to go away. It just gets bigger every year.

73, Lee ZL2AL


I don’t know what it is about contests, but they seem to take on a life of their own for 48 hours. Each contest is different in nature and operation. This one was a cracker because every facet just seemed to come together and the contest “worked”

At the end of the CQWW SSB test a month ago there was little enthusiasm to do the whole thing on CW again. A week later, Gary and I had a change in heart and decided to do a Multi-Two which grew into a Multi-Multi over a few weeks when ZL3IO became available. Gary then persuaded John ZL1BYZ from Auckland to join us and it was all on.

A multi-multi computer setup is quite different than M2. More equipment, more antennas are needed along with more ops. In the end, Gary ZL2iFB, Holger ZL3IO, John ZL1BYZ, Michael ZL2MY and I took on 48 hours with little sleep and a target score to aim for.

In the past, the ZM1A and ZL6QH teams have been hard to catch with formidable records that have lasted for many years. Could we catch them?

Gary ZL2iFB


Michael ZL2MY

Holger ZL3IO


Friday Morning

Gary and Lee started into setting up the three operating stations. The radios, amplifiers and laptops were placed and networking was set up with N1MM contest logger and fed with a 4th laptop to give us spots from the internet DX Clusters. We have the luxury of having 3el on 20m, 5el on 15m and 4el on 10m with loops for 80 and 40 metres permanently in place so it’s a simple matter to connect the stations to any antenna needed at the time.  Strangely, everything worked as it should and we were ready to go Saturday morning.


Lee arrived to find Gary and John attempting to make some Russian carbon ceramic resistors he purchased on eBay into a single 600 ohm resistor pack.

“Unibomber” Lee and the 2 x 600 ohm terminating resistor packs

VEE Beam with open wire feeders. The two 100 metre legs out to the right.

Gary decided that we needed a Vee beam with 100 metre legs pointing out to sea towards NA. The Vee beam needed terminating resistors. Time was marching on so Lee put a line over a tall pine with the infamous ZM4T spud gun and took over the fiddly soldering job while Gary and John ran out the antenna.

The 80m Spiderpole Vertical

Holger arrived and quickly got to work setting up his 18 metre Spiderpole which is our ¼ wavelength vertical on 80m. The 40m vertical on the roof of the big shed was soon in place and all was ready for a 0000 UTC start.

We opened the contest with an excellent start rate and it just went on and on. 10m and 15m were running hot. 20m woke up around 0200 hours. 6 hours of operation put 1400 QSOs in the log and over a million points. 12 hours in and we were at 2900 contacts and 3.3 million points.

Our tracking chart indicated a target of 8,000 was possible if we could hold the rate. Gary’s new THP HL2.5 Amplifier performed very well indeed. The LCD panel readout shows the internal temperature.

40C degrees and running cool!

Long productive runs barely moved the temperature up 5 degrees.The problem was there were only 4 of us to operate 3 stations. Michael, ZL2MY arrived Saturday night for the weekend which gave us a bit more flexibility. I noted that all operators would operate for up 13 hours without sleep and only a few tea breaks.


At breakfast our total was around 3800 contacts and 5 million points. Tracking indicated we would reach our target around 10 hours before the finish.Gary’s “multiplier bells” were constantly ringing. The strain was showing on the operator’s faces as they had only managed a few hours sleep since the contest start. Band conditions were deteriorating and extreme solar events were happening. 10M was a good example of this phenomenon. During a productive run and without warning the rate would drop off radically and then dwindle to nothing. 20M was producing thin, watery signals at times which made copy difficult.  John mentioned seeing multiplier spots on 40M during the greyline while the three stations were fully booked on 20, 15 and ten meters. His suggestion of setting up a fourth setup dedicated to 40M was taken up. We set up a spare FT1000MP Mk5 and a Drake amplifier. Gary set up his laptop on the network ready for action Sunday greyline time. It was a good chance to experiment.

“In The Middle of The Night” (apologies to Billy Joel)

Sunday turned into a long hard slog as fatigue set in. Lee went home Sunday evening and upon returning Monday morning looked at the figures on N1MM in disbelief as we had passed the ZL6QH and ZM1A record with 14 million points and another 6 hours to go. Monday morning is difficult as only the scraps remain. There are few stations you haven’t worked and endless CQing, followed by chasing frustrating multipliers that are just above the noise on the other side of the planet. You can hear them but they are focused on working 599 signals they can work easily. ZL is not a priority. Still, there were successes with a few more rare multipliers in the log. The contest ended with a raw score of 8363 QSOs and 16,493,588 points showing on the N1MM screen. The contest organizers at CQ undoubtedly will reduce that score by a significant amount due to logging errors on our part and also will attribute errors to the stations we worked. It is inevitable that errors occur and every team tries to minimize them and maintain a high degree of accuracy but errors do happen.

Gary with VEE Beam in hand

Monday 0000 Utc rolled around and the contest ended. Everyone pitched in as usual and soon all the equipment was back in the boxes. Antennas were taken down and packed away. The usual post contest “around the table” meeting showed that most things went well with virtually no gear failures and antennas performing well. Internet for a solid 48 hours was a bonus. We have never been able to achieve that from our location. Contest teams are successful because of decisions made during the contest by the individual operators. The importance of knowing when to turn an antenna as the propagation changes cannot be underestimated. Knowing when to cut your losses as a run dwindles away and to look for multipliers defines a good op.

The line of Pine trees at the back of the shack supports the 80m & 40m
full size loops and our full size 160m vertical with above ground radials

Location, location, location! You can have great ops, the latest equipment and lots of aluminium high up but if you don’t have a quiet site well above sea level it is hard to be competitive. The ZM4T site is about 20 miles north of Napier back in the hills about 1 km from the sea and 120 metres above sea level in a totally rural area with no noise. It is a superb location to run a contest from. Loud and clear signals from all over the world just pop out without actually registering on the S-Meter.

Equipment logistics and organization of which ops to put on which bands will affect the overall team’s performance. It goes without saying that the very best in equipment and antennas will contribute to the team’s success. This is limited by the team’s finances of course. We need more CW ops if we are to maintain a presence in the Multi-Multi category. Other quality CW ops may have to be seconded to our group, perhaps from out of the area. After some discussion of possible names we were surprised by the lack of ZL contest CW operators actually available in ZL. Perhaps CW is a dying art?.

The Team! L to R – ZL2iFB ZL3IO ZL1BYZ ZL2AL

We all had a great time. Personally, it was the best weekend of contesting I have ever had. It was a lot of fun to hang out and just enjoy the intensity. I can’t help but admire and respect the dogged determination and dedication of every member of the ZM4T Team. They all appear so relaxed while on a tea break. When the break is over their utter concentration hour after hour is amazing. Contests are not only about the operating. There is the social aspect of working together for a common cause and achieving it. Male bonding perhaps? In any case we are looking forward to the CQWW WPX in March 2013. As they say “See you in the pileups!”

73, Lee ZL2AL

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N1MM Shortcut Keys

N1MM Basic Hot Keys

           Hot Keys

 ALT + U  –  Toggles Run and S&P

SPACE  –   Move to Next Field

CTL + W –  Wipe QSO

CTL + O – Set Operator Callsign

CTL + E – Send Chat to Others

CTL + N – Add Note to Log

ALT + P – Spot Contact

CTL + T – Tune on CW

CTL + O  – Log on Your Call

CTL + Q –  Edit Last QSO

CTL + D  –  Delete QSO

CTL + ENTER – Log without Send

Take great care with the accuracy of what you log!

DO NOT DELETE older QSOs in the log. Leave a note

73, Lee ZL2AL

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The Founding of ZL3X


It all started innocently enough.  I’d had a lot of fun in the BERU contest operating from home as part of the “ZL3 Earthquake Survivors” team in February 2012, when I asked if there was any interest in a serious multi-op effort in the CQ WW RTTY contest coming up in September. The answer was “yes!” and “The Quake Contesters” were born.

Starting from scratch presented some challenges.

Although we had all dabbled none of us were serious regular contesters and we were not blessed with acres of land to build a super station.  K3LR or W3LPL this clearly wasn’t going to be!

ZL in general and ZL3 in particular is not exactly flush with contesters or contest groups (ZM1A and ZM4T in the North Is being the only regular groups currently operating and there are probably less than a dozen other operators in the whole country who regularly enter any of the international contests) and we were going to need more operators than we had.

Location: Based in Christchurch, we wanted a quiet site which ruled out the local amateur radio clubs as they had stations in residential areas.  Then we had to find somewhere that hadn’t been damaged in the earthquakes we had in 2010 and 2011.

After an initial search for somewhere by the sea proved unsuccessful, I was out for a run one day pondering our options when the Port Hills, the rim of an extinct volcano at the southern end of the town, drew my gaze.  Then it hit me.  The local city council had buildings up there and I wondered if they would let us use one?  I called the council and as luck would have it, I ended talking to a guy I went to school with many years before!  “No problem” he said when I outlined what I wanted and he offered us a sheep shearing shed with a kitchen and power which was 300m above sea level and with views from the west through north to the south-east, perfect for where we needed to aim the antennas. We had our site.

Next we needed to start planning for the day so in that time honoured ZL tradition we went to the pub. There we identified some other ops to approach and set out a list of gear and antennas.  We all agreed that as this was a serious effort the first item on the list had to be a kettle for making tea and coffee!  Other than that our goal was to call CQ at the start of the contest so we determined we would strictly adhere to the KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) principle.  Normally callsigns in New Zealand are issued with two or three letter suffixes. We decided we needed a callsign with a one letter suffix which you are allowed to request for use for special events and contests.  When we had a look at the options ZL3X stood out as the obvious candidate.

We decided to enter the Multi-Single low power category for two reasons:

1. We had major concerns about interference between stations with RTTY being a full duty mode as we had no band pass filters and the rigs were to be set up quite close together; and

2. If we managed to get it going, the “Mult” station as a search and pounce station meant that being inexperienced our ops were not under any pressure on that station to run and thereby deal with pile ups.

Come the day we were ready (or thought we were). The contest stated at 12 midday Saturday New Zealand time so the team of Phil Holliday ZL3PAH, Andrew Barron ZL3DW, Don McDonald ZL3DMC, Graeme Kerr ZL3GK and I headed up the hill at 9am.  Amazingly the Port Hills were bathed in sunshine except for the part we were going to be operating from! When we got up there visibility was down to about 30m but as Don ZL3DMC noted, “…at least we are not an astronomy club”. (Lesson one:  Conditions on a hill may materially differ from those on the flat.  Always bring warm clothes).

Now we would have loved stacked yagis and four squares but following the KISS principle we took a more modest approach.  Our antennas consisted of a hex beam on a 5 metre pole for 20-15-10m and a fan dipole on an 11m aluminium pole covering 40-20-15m.  It was supposed to do 10m as well but after we put it up we could not get it to load on 10m. (Lesson two: Always check your antennas before you leave home). The rigs used were a Kenwood TS2000 and an Elecraft K3.

Once the antennas were up we had an hour before the contest to set up the radios and N1MM on the two laptops.  (Lesson three: Never leave it until an hour before a contest to set up radios and network two laptops).  After much frustration we could get N1MM networked and logging from both radios but we could not get the cluster going or show accurate info for each laptop.  We never did figure either issue out. (Lesson four: Set up a fully functioning network in the days leading up to the contest and write all your settings down).

Because of our interference fears we put toroids on all our leads.  We even put toroid on toroids!  The rest of the lads drew the line when I started eyeing up their shoelaces and some passing sheep.  Despite that we were still worried but to our major surprise we had no interference issues.

After a “wee dram” to set us on our way we were off.  We then immediately hit a problem.  If one station was transmitting the other one couldn’t.  We couldn’t figure it out until we looked at the network set up and somewhat sheepishly noticed that the software interlock was on.  Problem solved! (Lesson five:  Read up on the software you are using before the contest).

We all had a blast as did the wind at times.  Although watertight the shed was hardly airtight with a slat floor in parts and louvres on the windows so it got pretty cold, not to mention noisy with the wind rattling the roof quite dramatically at times. After driving up the hill for the Saturday night shift and with visibility down to about 20m due to the mist, I did seriously wonder what on earth I was doing up there.  I did that shift in a sleeping bag.

From a receive perspective the site was amazing.  There was no local noise as the nearest houses were over a kilometre away and even with our low, basic antennas we managed great copy.  I will never forget seeing an Italian station signing /QRP all perfect print.

However transmit was a different story.  QST Contributing Editor Ward Silver N0AX once told me he did a study of which DXCC entities were, on average, the farthest away from all the others. The trio of ZL/ZL7/ZL8 “won” that competition going away (in case you are wondering Croatia 9A was the least distant).  From Christchurch the nearest amateur population of any substance is VK2 which is 2,100 km away or approximately the same distance as Los Angeles to Dallas.  Los Angeles to Christchurch is five and a half times further!  We realised just how far we were from the action by the number of stations whom we could read perfectly but who could not see us.  A combination of low power and the fact that many of these stations were clearly not beaming our way meant we (and they) missed out on a number of QSOs and in the case of the DX station more than likely a multiplier.  And it wasn’t just us.  Many times we saw VK’s in the same position especially in the last four or five hours of the contest.  (Lesson six – for you this time: Turn your beam when you are not busy, you never know who might be lurking off the back).

By the end of the contest and in what turned out to be the first ever multi-op effort in the CQ WW RTTY contest from ZL, we had 519 QSOs and a claimed score of 417,439 points.  We were pretty happy and as Phil ZL3PAH noted, “… contesting is a lot more fun when you do it as a team”.

Quotes of the weekend:

Don ZL3DMC “This K3 is broken”.  We later realised the Hexbeam was facing 180 deg from the direction we thought it was. (Lesson seven.  Hexbeams have a great F/B ratio).

Family friend who was staying at my house on the Saturday night:  “Why don’t you just use Skype?”

PostScript: The Quake Contesters entered the 2012 CQ WW SSB as a Multi two entry and put a lot of the things we had learnt into practice.  We had a second beam higher up, bandpass filters, more power, a reliable cluster connection and more operators.  This lead to a significant increase in our score with 2227 QSOs and over 1.9m points claimed and we had fun.  We plan to enter many of the big contests in the future.

73, Mark Sullivan ZL3AB    

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Contesting Information

What is it about contesting that challenges the amateur radio community?

Starting in a contest, sitting down in that radio chair and firing up the equipment is like starting an adventurous journey. You travel with the waves that cross the globe – along the ionospheric layers and through the aurora belts You are fighting with all kinds of natural and man made phenomena on the way. Reaching across continents and oceans with power that is comparable to an electric heater, desk lamp or even a flashlight is nothing short of magic.

DXing is like going after a trophy fish, you keep at it until you catch that elusive fish or DX country. Contesting is like a fishing tournament, you go fishing during a specified time period and try catch as many fish (or specific type of fish) during that time period or have contacts on the air instead. Ham radio contesting is a sport. Each contest has its own rules and personality. What they all have in common is a blend of strategy, skill and endurance. But what makes ham radio contesting so unique is that the “pros” play with the “contesting beginners” too. It’s the thrill; the challenge.

Contesting is no different than drag racing from one traffic light to another… except its legal and safer. Human nature is driven by competing. Not only with others but with one’s self. Ham communications is fairly docile, but in a contest, not only do you try to beat your peers, but you compete with your past scores. You alone retain the most satisfaction by beating past scores. And you get bragging rights when you gazump your peers. It’s the nourishment of the best in human nature!

The more who participate, the better the experience for everyone. It’s a great way to discover the true potential of your equipment and your own operating skills. Once the contest is under way we find out how our equipment is performing and how our skills help us battling in the landscape of the ionosphere. Our paths cross with our buddies from the contesting community from all parts of the globe, as well as newcomers and casual participants. We compete against the others and try to improve our scores from previous contests. And the bonus is that we may pick up a few new countries in the process.

Below are some excellent links to Contest Information and software, Compliments of AC6V’s fantastic website.

 Amateur Radio Contesting Resources and Information

Forthcoming contests operations are included in the tables linked-to below. For operations in contests that have already taken place (1996+), use the menu provided under “Operations for Previous Contests“. For operations in the forthcoming smaller contests for which I don’t create dedicated tables and for operations that are not contest oriented, check the Announced DX Operations (ADXO) table.

Operations in Specific Forthcoming Contests



These are Web pages specifically designed for and dedicated to a single contest. Typically, they include more than just an announcment or rule list for a single year (which can almost always be found in the better “Contest Calendars”). These pages may contain (or provide links to) such items as Contest: History; Records; Results; County Names/Abbreviations; Logging Programs, etc. Ideally, they’re a single “point-of entry” from which one can find “everything you ever wanted to know” about a particular contest and are well maintained and up-to-date. Kudos to the pioneers who have created and are maintaining these pages! I believe the Asia-Pacific Sprint offer excellent models for contest Web pages.



73, Lee ZL2AL and the ZM4T Contest Team

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