According to the ARRL (Amateur Radio Relay League), "the goal of Amateur Radio contesting is to contact as many stations as possible during the contest period."
Any amateur can participate in Contesting. Doing so has many advantages, to include:
- Checking your equipment to see if your antenna system is functional and efficient. Antenna systems can be anything from a VHF/UHF beam (for a VHF/UHF Contest) to a simple wire dipole (for an HF Contest). Also, to see if your commonly marketed 100 watt HF transceiver can pick up some distant states and at the same time....
- Work toward a dual purpose, such as achieving a respectable score in a contest and also picking up multiple states working toward a WAS (Worked All States) award.
- Learning more about propagation (such as what band works best for what time of the day, or even what time of the year). An example of this would be learning how to take advantage of 6 meters if the contest is in June or early July, or even a bit in January.
- Participate in an international contest where you can work toward achieving contacts with as many countries as possible. This number can rise sharply, if you begin to accomplish a knowledge of the best times of the day or night to contact countries all around the world. This can occur best by understanding differences between contacts made when you have daylight in your location and the other station is operating at night. Taking advantage of other conditions such as the sunspot cycle or meteors, or noise levels that may be unusually low on a low frequency band such as 80 or 160 meters.
- The big advantage of Contesting is that many stations get on the air at once! You don't wait for more than a minute or two, to hear a state you may really want to make contact with whereas normally you may wait weeks or even months (as I have) to get a state that just happens to be on the air, either calling CQ or talking to another station.
- In contesting, you also learn how to be more efficient with operating skills. I can tell you, these skills don't come easily. Some of these skills are: switching antennas, or bands efficiently so as to take the least amount of time, while not damaging your transmitter by accidentally tuning for one band while the wrong antenna is inadvertently switched in because you did it too quickly. Of course the more you do this, the faster you can make the switch correctly. Often I have been very thankful that the kilowatt transmitting tube in my amplifier is somewhat forgiving, or I would have melted it, several times over.
In summary, the challenge of contesting never goes away. I compete against myself only, and yes, I have even won several awards. The purpose of this article is to encourage others to try there hand at contesting. There are some very appealing categories. Try, for example to compete in a VHF/UHF contest in only the bottom three bands, try the new FM only category or other things where you may stand a surprisingly good chance of winning a "best in New Hampshire" or even "best in New England award."
Give it a shot. You may surprise yourself, REALLY!
Steve Jones, N1JHJ