Amateur Radio Contesting Tips

A small collection of contest tips from various sources. Click or tap the plus sign to open up the FAQ for the title you’re interested in reading. Other resources are pages that will take you to other web sites. Others are links to PDF files located on this site so you will need a PDF reader to access them.

New Contester Help

Getting Started – WD4AHZ

Getting Started – WD4AHZ

‘Tis The Season

With Fall just around the corner, most people are looking forward to cooler weather, the changing of the leaves, the sounds and smells of wood burning in the fireplace, the upcoming holidays, and time spent with family and loved ones.

Well, enough about “normal” people … many Amateur Radio operators, especially those who enjoy working Amateur Radio Contests, are looking forward to the “Contest Season”, which traditionally begins in October.

What exactly is an Amateur Radio Contest? Well, second only to flying around the earth at seventeen-thousand miles an hour and operating from the Space Shuttle, Amateur Radio Contesting is probably the most exhilarating experience you can have in ham radio. The basic concept behind contests is to see how many contacts you can make and accurately log, in as many different places, during the contest operating time period. It is a test of your station, your operating skills, and of yourself. CW Contests are an excellent way to improve your CW skills. Contests are also a great way to work new states for your “Worked All States” award or add new countries to your “DXCC” totals.

Contests are usually domestic (US and Canada), International, or a combination of both. Operating modes are usually CW, Phone, and even RTTY! There are several operating categories, so most folks can usually find one that matches their abilities (and station). These include single operator (one person performs all the operating and logging) or multi operator (several people get to together to operate). You can run High Power (greater than 150 Watts), Low Power (less than 150 Watts), or QRP (less than 5 Watts). Some contests offer the option of operating all bands, 160 through 10 Meters, or just one band. The “Worked All Prefixes” Contest, even has a class for folks using just a tri-bander and a wire antenna. For those without HF capabilities, there are even VHF and UHF contests. There are plenty of categories to choose from. Just check the contest rules, and see if there is a category for you.

Contrary to what you may think, a big station is not necessary to get involved with contesting. Yes, many towers, big antennas, and lots of power will probably put you in the “Top 10”, but in order for these “Big Guns” to do that well, there needs to be plenty of average stations for them to work. The average ham probably has a tri-bander or dipole, and is running around 100 Watts. That is all you need to participate and get in on the fun.

If you plan to participate seriously in a contest, you will have to submit your log. This will get your call listed in the results and make you eligible to win any possible awards. Serious contesters use a variety of software programs to let their computer do the work of keeping track of contacts and scoring. However, if you’re not using a computer, you can still participate. Most contest sponsors still give you the option of submitting your contest logs on paper. You can usually send for the paper forms or download them from the Internet.

OK, so now you’ve read the rules, have the log sheets, and your station is ready to go. What next? It’s time to get on the air and start making contacts.

The start of the contest is usually very frantic. If you’re new at contesting, it’s probably best for you to begin tuning around and answering other stations calling “CQ Contest”. This operating technique is called “Search & Pounce”. This starts filling your log and gets you into the rhythm of the contest. When answering stations, use your full callsign. Many people, especially newer hams, have gotten into the bad habit of calling with the “last two” letters of their call. This is not the correct way to call stations.

Be sure to log all the required information, and pay close attention to accuracy. That means making sure you log callsigns and exchanges correctly. Errors will reduce your score and if the errors are excessive, will lead to disqualification. You certainly don’t want that to happen.

Also, pay attention to what are called “dupes” or duplicate contacts. You don’t want to work stations you’ve already logged, so check to make sure you haven’t already worked a station, before you call him. Keep in mind, some contests only let you work a station once, regardless of band. You can only work the station one time, period. Other contests allow you to work stations again on each band. This is one area where computer logging really helps.

In addition to trying to contact everyone you hear, also make sure you pick up new “multipliers” along the way. Depending on the contest, multipliers can be counties, ARRL Sections, states, islands, countries, zones, etc. Multipliers end up being important, because usually your final score is determined by the total contacts multiplied by the number of multipliers. The more contacts you can make in as many different multipliers as possible, the bigger score you can get. Some contests have been won or lost by one or two extra multipliers.

Once you’re comfortable answering calls, then it’s time to try calling “CQ Contest” yourself! Find a clear frequency, start calling, and be prepared for people to start answering you. To maximize your score, try and operate as much as you can (and within the contest time limits). If you can only put in a few hours, be sure to try and operate a few hours near the end of the contest. By this time of the contest, the serious stations will have worked almost everyone that they can. Because you are getting on and calling “CQ” late in the contest, you’re considered “fresh meat” and will become very popular very quickly! This is because you’re a new station and no one has worked you yet. Keep calling CQ … eventually guys will find you. If you really get on a roll, this could be a real treat working one station after the other! This is what contesters call “running” and is the best way to maximize the number of contacts.

Besides getting on the air and operating, another excellent way to learn about contesting, is to join a local Contest Club. Members of Contest Clubs are a good source of information. Occasionally, some members may operate in the Multi-operator category and extend invitations to members to help operate. If your station isn’t very competitive (or even if you don’t have a station), this is a good way to operate a contest and learn at the same time. Several contests have a “club competition”, where each club member submits their individual score towards the club effort. It doesn’t matter how large or small your score may be, as long as you get on and make contacts, contribute your score toward the club’s effort. It could make the difference in how the club finishes.

Once you’ve decided to participate in a contest, there are two more things you should do. First, is to set a goal. This could be something like a certain number of contacts, working all the states, making a certain score, or beating last year’s score. Then, make sure you stick to it. If you surpass your goal with relative ease, you can always set it higher as you go along.

And finally, the most important aspect of contesting, is HAVE FUN!

73, Ron WD4AHZ

Whining vs. Winning – WS1A

Whining vs. Winning – WS1A

[CQ-Contest] WPX whining vs winning
Rob Hummel
Wed, 16 Apr 1997 13:10:04 -0400 (EDT)

I’ve read with interest and horror some of the opinions and statements that have been put forth on the topic of the WPX and contests in general, how they’re scored, and how they’re unfair.

I’m very concerned that new or prospective contesters will read this and get the impression that the winners got what they got because they’re privileged somehow. That winners are, in essence, cheaters. Because if the winners weren’t cheating, they couldn’t have beat all those virtuous losers. That, in fact, any activity where someone loses is — by definition — unfair.

Contesting is competition — plain and simple. There are no second-place winners. The term for those who don’t win is “loser.” There is no shame in losing. I have been a loser many times. Winning feels good, but losing educates you. Ask my 6-year old daughter what being a loser means and she’ll tell you without hesitation: it means you have to try harder. No one ever won a contest by whining.

If you want to be competitive, you must do everything within your power (and the rules) to maximize your advantages and minimize your disadvantages. Complaining that a contest is unfair accomplishes nothing except to brand you as a bitter, dissatisfied, jaded, jealous naysayer.

Ignore advice or whining from folks who don’t even participate in the contest. What can they possibly tell you except how to be a bitter loser? If you want to win, associate around winners.

If you want to be competitive, you must be positive. Here are some suggestions.

1. Acquire as much knowledge as possible about the contest.

First, learn the rules of the contest. That means knowing the exchange and the scoring. It also means understanding what strategy you should use to maximize your score. Figure out how long should you chase a multiplier and how many Qs do you need to be competitive.

Figure out if a mult or a 3-point qso is more valuable to you toward the end of the contest. Calculate how many mults you will need to be competitive.

2. Decide where to point your antenna and when.

You must understand how propagation affects your area. Read the propagation forecasts and make sure you understand them. Know where your greyline goes. Know when 40m opens and 20m closes. Keep an extra antenna and radio tuned to popular 10m frequencies (you know them because you researched, right?) to check for band openings.

3. Study the local competition.

Study the scores, mults, and prefixes worked by those in your area. Call them or write them and find out their strategies. (Of course, they may not want to tell you!) Ask for copies of their logs. Study where they pointed their antennas and when. Find out what bands they favored and why.

Anyone who beats you is in a position to teach you something. Instead of reviling them, study them. Don’t forget the other end of the spectrum. Some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned have come from low-power stations with wire antennas.

4. Know the field.

Study the contest results from the past 2-3 years. You must know the calls that were active. You must know if any special DX stations be on. You should know who you’ll be listening for.

You must know the frequencies that JAs can use on 80m. You should know the 40m allocation world-wide. You should know where VKs will be on the low bands. Instead of figuring out why the contest is unfair, learn how to work it.

5. Improve your station.

Learn the truth about feedline matching, antenna loss, VSWR, directivity, and gain. That means read and study. That means experiment. That means cut and try.

Shrug off the myths embraced by the mediocre. Don’t listen to people who tell you that 2:1 SWR is good enough because all the power goes somewhere eventually. Or that 9913 is lossless at HF. Or that a 1 dB difference in a signal is unnoticable at either end. Or that connector loss is negligable. All those statements are lies. Find out why.

Work on your antennas. Nothing is perfect or stays that way. Put up new antennas. Try wires. Try loops. Try beverages. Try low-noise receive antennas. Try slopers. Try, try, try. All these antennas are relatively low-cost.

6. Learn your radio.

All (well, most) of those knobs on your radio have a purpose. Find out what they do. Read and study the manual. Do you know where the manual is?

If you can quickly set a split frequency, you might be the first to work a new station of 40m. If you learn how to use those 100+ memories efficiently, you can stack up big stations and throw your call in rapidly to 2, 5, or more stations simultaneously.

Get all your filters in place. Get a voice keyer. Learn your DSP. Get a better mike. Tweak the audio until it sounds crystal clear and with all the punch of a buzz saw cutting through aluminum. Remember that setting for the contest, then turn it back to mushy so the boys on 80m don’t complain.

7. WORK the contest.

If you’re going to work a contest, then, by God, WORK IT. A 48-hour contest runs for 48 hours. If you want to be competitive, you will run for 48 hours too. Hey, if you can’t, then you can’t. But then don’t whine about not winning.

The single biggest weapon that a small pistol has is persistence. I’ve heard lectures from big guns where they advocate switching bands when your QSO rate drops below 60/hour. That’s okay for a big gun, but here are some surprising statistics:

* At a rate of 60 Qs/hour, you would work 2,880 stations in a 48-hour contest.

* At 30/hour, you’d work 1,440 stations in a 48-hour contest.

* Even a rate of 15/hour (only one QSO every 4 minutes!), you’d still work 720 stations in 48 hours!

How many Qs did you work in the last contest? I’ve WON contests where I didn’t make 720 total Qs.

Cherry pickers don’t win. If you give up when the time between Qs stretches out to 4, 6, 10, or more minutes, you give up your competitiveness. A contesters mettle is measured in the dead of night when calling CQ endlessly on a seemingly dead band or when tuning 20m or 40m or any other band straining to pull that next new station out of the noise. (Hint: This is where 1 dB or less makes all the difference in the world.)

8. Have fun.

Winning is fun. But so is competing. It’s great fun being a part of an overall event that’s larger than some petty self-centered concern about whether your QTH is “unfairly disadvantaged.” If you want to have fun in a contest, find people who are having fun and do what they’re doing. Don’t be poisoned by the facile argument that a contest where everyone isn’t a winner is unfair and unfair is no fun.

Everything is fun if it involves amateur radio.

* I love working SSB, CW, and RTTY contests — although my skill in each mode varies widely.

* I love domestic contests. I don’t like the spate of non-SASE cards they generate, but I answer every one — I will NOT be responsible for discouraging a ham for a few bucks.

* I love DX contests. Every time I hear GW4BLE or ON4UN or EA7USA it’s the same thrill.

* Every time someone remembers my call I light up like a little kid. Gosh, they remember me!

* I love working the all-Bulgaria QSO party and being the only USA entry — winning with 4 QSOs!

* I highlight my name in every contest result that published. What a thrill! Any contest I miss I consider a failure. Every contest I make is a victory.


If you like contests or think you might, understand that there are hundreds and thousands of like-minded souls out there who want you to be the best you can be. We’ll help, encourage, and congratulate you for every QSO you make and every log you submit. Every DX station is looking for you. Every QSL you get is a thank you.

Ignore the bitter, the miserable, and the perpetually dissatisfied. They’re not your competition; they’re QRM.

Rob Hummel (WS1A)

Contesting FAQ – ZS1AN

Contesting Dos and Donts_Rev Aug 2014


Sprint Tips

NA Sprint – K1TO, N6TR

NA Sprint – K1TO, N6TR

Subject: [FCG] CW Sprint next Saturday!
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 1999 11:41:11 EDT

Fellow FCGers,

(portions copied from an N6TR CQ-Contest post)

The CW Sprint is coming up on the 4th of September – (not the 11th as shown in February’s results). I realize this is a holiday weekend, but I hope most of you can make it on to hand out some QSOs.

If you have never operated the Sprint before – this might be a good time to give it a try. It is one of the most intense radio experiences out there.

The contest starts at 00Z on Sept 5th (Sept 4th local time). It goes for four hours. Activity will initially be on 20 meters. Stations start QSYing to 40 around 0115 UTC, but there will still be activity on 20 as late as 0230 UTC, espec, for us FL stations! The last hour of the contest is mostly spent on 80 meters. After the contest – many people check in on 3830 to exchange scores and stories.

Full rules can be found in QST or at The exchange is QSO number, name and state/province/DX.

Here are some pointers for the first timer:

1. The code speeds typically used are over 30 WPM – however, if you are not comfortable at that speed – feel free to call CQ at your own speed and people will QRS for you. A good place to do this is above the concentration of activity (typically around 55 or 60 kHz above the band edge). Most sprint operators keep an ear out for slower speed stations up there. The QRM is also less.

2. The QSY rule is unique to the sprints. If you call CQ and work someone as a result – when you are done – you must QSY at least 5 kHz to call another CQ. This means the guy who answered your CQ inherits your frequency.

3. A good way to increase rate is to find someone who is just finishing up a QSO and call them. After the QSO is complete – you inherit the frequency and can work another station. You get two QSOs for each frequency instead of just one if you were only CQing.

NOTE: The standard protocol for a QSO is to always include both callsigns when you send the exchange.

(pileup then descends on N4BP, who takes over the frequency for one more QSO)

When I sent Bob the exchange, I sent my call immediately after his. This is a signal to any listeners NOT to call me after they hear my end of the exchange. When Bob finishes his part, he signs his call last. This is the cue to call him (AFTER I get to send the “TU” that completes the QSO). So, the moral of the story is to always listen for callsigns at the end of the exchange (or CQ) and only call then, not when you hear a state being sent last.

If you made it this far in my message, you are a candidate for a TEAM. Another unique aspect of the Sprint is the team competition. ANY 10 stations can pre-register as a team, regardless of location. I’d love to see the FCG field at least one full team. Who’s interested?

By the way, there is a significant effort under way to promote activity in this one. There will be no shortage of QSOs to be had!

vy 73, Dan

Contest Planning

You should have a reason … – K3ZO

You should have a reason … – K3ZO

You Should Have A Reason For Everything You Do

Subject: [CQ-Contest] You should have a reason for everything you do.
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 22:58:04 -0400
From: Fred Laun K3ZO

Now that the CQWW SSB is just a little over a month away, the thought occurred to me to write a few lines about planning.

For many of us it’s good enough to get on and just have fun in the contest. This means that you get on when you want and operate as long as you want and quit when it stops being fun.

For those who are seriously hoping to improve their scores, however, there is no substitute for careful planning.

After some of the post-contest stories I have written, I have received private e-mails from folks in propagationally-challenged areas saying, in essence: “What you’ve written is all fine and good, but out here where I live there is just no way I can run up a decent score.”

I have replied with my stock first reply: “All right. Tell me what your operating plan was for the contest and I’ll try to help you work out a better one.” About half the respondents come back with: “WHAT operating plan?”

Ladies and gentlemen, the cardinal underlying principle for serious contest operating is: YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHY YOU’RE DOING EVERYTHING YOU DO.

I’m a little tired of reading on this reflector how the log checking has become too stringent; how the rules need to be changed “so that the contest is fair”; how one’s location is so hopeless that there is no hope of having any fun in the contest, etc. etc.

How many of the writers of messages which fall into the above categories have ever drawn up a complete plan for the contest in question before the contest starts? Yes, conditions can change suddenly and you may have to improvise, but you should have a plan for that too.

There are pieces on the Web site by people such as Randy, K5ZD which lay aspects of contesting out in much more detail than I will here, but in general, before the contest starts you should ask yourself the following questions and have the answers in your head if not formally on paper: (Obviously these are questions a North American operator would ask. Some of the questions might be different for stations in other parts of the world.)

What band will I start on? Why?
What band shall I try next? Why?
How low should I allow my ten-minute rate to get before I decide to change bands?
About what time should I plan to hit each band and why?
How much time and when should I plan to take time off the first night so I am fresh for the European run Saturday morning?
What signs will tell me that propagation is deteriorating and what should I do about it?
How do I vary my pile-up technique depending on what the operator I’m calling is doing?
How many times should I call in a pile-up before going on to the next pile-up?
What signs tell me that it’s time to stop S&Ping and that instead it might be possible to get a run going?
At what times on each band should I look for multipliers in Africa? South America? Oceania?
When do I take time off on the second night?
If a particular antenna, rotor, or piece of gear fails, how do I work around it?

There is no set answer for any of the above questions, because the answer will be different depending on one’s category, antenna system, age and location. But if you’re serious about score, all of these questions should be asked and answered ahead of time to the best of your ability.

I’m sure others can suggest questions I haven’t put in here.

I would offer only one suggestion. It pays to look carefully at the bands for about a week before the contest to help you plan your operating pattern. It’s much better to observe for yourself than to try to make IONCAP or VOACAP or George Jacobs’ column do the job for you. If you can’t be on certain hours because you’re at work or school, check out the packetcluster when you get home each day to see what people in your area were working at what times on what bands.

Good luck then! And no complaining later if you didn’t do any planning!

73, Fred K3ZO

Copyright © 1999-2003 Ron Wetjen Web Creations

Contest Planning – K8CC

Contest Planning – K8CC

Subject: [CQ-Contest] Contest Planning
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 11:06:52 -0400 (EDT)
From: “k8cc”

The recent note about contest planning from Fred, K3ZO was right on, and I’d like to add a few comments that add to, or embellish what he wrote.

Fairly early in my contest career, I was somewhat surprised to learn that there were patterns to propagation and activity in DX contests. Up to that point, I had simply sat at the radio and worked whatever I was presented with. This is the difference between the casual contester, who simply sits down and operates, and the serious contester who has a plan to take maximum advantage likely conditions and activity.

The first question to answer for a given contest is whether you plan to operate full or part time. Even a part time effort can be “serious” if it is executed with a plan to maximize the score rather than simply spending a few hours in the operating chair. I’m not saying the latter can’t be fun or should not be undertaken, but you’ll like learn a lot more (and make more points) by preparing and operating to a plan.

In most contests other than a Sprint or NAQP, fatigue can or will become a factor. The point at which it does varies between individuals, and there are techniques to improve your physical conditioning or to better accommodate fatigue. The longer the contest, the more important it becomes to manage fatigue. You still may reach a point where you have to reach down inside and just “push through”, but this is a lot easier if you have a plan.

If you’re planning multi-op effort, there are more options for dealing with fatigue. The trick is to schedule a crew that has ENOUGH people so that nobody gets burned out, but you don’t want TOO MANY operators so that people are standing around with nothing to do. With a multi-op, the activity plan is simple – there is no excuse for not working everything. In the major DX contests (CQWW, ARRL) there are no off times so whenever the single-op is away from the radio its hurting the score – the key is to MINIMIZE THE DAMAGE.

For the single op, the key to planning your effort is to categorize the different forms of activity and band openings, and then attack the bands on the basis of priority. Do what is important, and DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF. If you’re playing DXer on some band when there is rate to be had on another, you’re likely to be losing the contest. The key to single-op planning is to be ready to capitalize on the good times, and simply cope with the bad times.

The corollary to to “don’t sweat the small stuff” is DON’T MISS ANYTHING EASY. This means spending enough time on a band to work all of the “easy” multipliers, but don’t spend so much time that another (more important) activity is overlooked. Part of this is knowing who the “big” or “relatively local” stations are, and not missing them on any possible bands.

As an example, here is Michigan the single op typically must think like an East Coaster – that is, RUN EUROPE WHENEVER POSSIBLE. Our openings don’t last as long, and the signals aren’t as strong, but this still has proven to be the best strategy for us. Openings to Japan have to be anticipated, but the quality of the opening will determine whether this is more productive than pursuing Europe on a lower band. At all other times, the W8 single-op is playing DXer so activity patterns will be dictated by band conditions and the size of his or her station. In general, the slowest times are the middle of the afternoon and the middle of the night, so these are the best times (or to look at it another way, the least bad) times to take a break or get some sleep.

One tip for abbreviated sleeping is to always plan to sleep in multiples of 90 minutes. Some years ago this was written up in the YCCC newsletter that your body sleeps in 90 minute cycles, where it goes down into deep sleep then comes back up to shallow sleep. Its a lot easier to wake up from shallow sleep. The first time I tried this was at Dayton after a late night hospitality suite tour. It works!

Again, all of this requires a plan. Experienced DX contesters have this engrained into their brains – its called EXPERIENCE. Whether you’re going to do a 48 hour full gonzo effort, or 12 hours sandwiched in between family responsibilities, having a plan will likely result in more points per hour in the chair, and that’s what we’re all after.

73, Dave K8CC

Copyright © 1999-2003 Ron Wetjen Web Creations

CW Information

Iambic Keying – Debunking the Myth by Marshall G. Emm, N1FN

Iambic Sending Chuck Adams, K5FO

To 20 WPM and Higher – Here’s some ideas By Jim Reid KH7M


Logging & Software Information

Submitting ARRL E-mail logs – K8CC

Submitting ARRL E-mail logs – K8CC

ARRL E-Log Submittal

Subject: [CQ-Contest] ARRL E-Log Submittal
Date: Sun, 4 Jul 1999 16:40:40 -0400
From: “David A. Pruett”

I was bracing for a batch of flames after my tirade about our travails with checking the ARRL 10 logs. However, every one who answered was completely supportive and I deeply appreciate that. A few of the respondents were involved with logchecking themselves, and knew how difficult the task was.

I had a couple of responses from people who needed an explanation of exactly what to submit, so I thought I would share this with the reflector. A lot of you already know this, so for those of you, press the Delete button……NOW.

These instructions have to do with submitting logs for ARRL contests only. CQ and other contests have their own procedures.

For ARRL contests, what you should submit is what is called the “ARRL Format File”. CT, NA, TRLog, and possibly other programs can generate this file. I would not expect most general-purpose or DXing logging packages to create such a file, but I may be wrong.

Follow whatever procedure your software package uses to generate output files, then look at what results. You’re looking for a file called CALLSIGN.LOG (i.e., at my house it would be K8CC.LOG). It is very important to note that whatever the contest, the ARRL format file will have the exact same file name, so make sure you have the correct one (i.e., make sure that the file is for the correct contest) when you go to submit your entry.

Please note that it is also very bad form for the filename to be different from the actual callsign used. For example, K9TM spent several days looking for a log for K0xxx (which was the callsign used) when the filename was N0xx (perhaps the owner of the software?). Boy, was this confusing!

The other file you’re interested in for ARRL entry submittal is the summary sheet file. In most cases, this is called CONTEST.SUM, where CONTEST is the root filename of your computerized log file.

Here is the procedure I follow to submit an E-log to the ARRL:

1. Generate all the output files using my logging program.

2. I check the CALLSIGN.LOG file to make sure it is for the correct contest. (More on this later)

3. Open up the summary file with a text editor or Windows Notepad, checking all the info and adding any comments.

4. Start a blank e-mail in the e-mail program. Title the e-mail something descriptive, like “K8CC ARRL DX CW MULTI-MULTI”.

5. Most e-mail programs can insert a text file – no, I don’t mean attachment, but instead copying the text of the file into the body of the e-mail. I insert the summary file which becomes the body of the e-mail.

6. Finally, attach the ARRL format file (CALLSIGN.LOG) as an attachment, then send the e-mail.

See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?


How can you tell if the file you plan to send is in the correct format, or is for the correct contest? You can inspect the file using any text editor, including Windows Notepad. You can also simply type the file to the screen in DOS using the command:


When typing the file to the screen, it will probably scroll off very fast, however once it stops you will probably still be able to see what you need to see.

Here is a fragment of K8MAD.LOG from our Field Day effort last weekend:

00001 06/26/99 1800  40CW  K8MAD  2A  OH  WA8RCN 3A  OH  4
00002 06/26/99 1801  40CW  K8MAD  2A  OH  NT1N   1D  CT  4
00003 06/26/99 1801  40CW  K8MAD  2A  OH  W9GO   5A  IN  4
00004 06/26/99 1801  40CW  K8MAD  2A  OH  N3BJ   1B  VA  4
00005 06/26/99 1801  20CW  K8MAD  2A  OH  W2YD   2A  NNJ 4
00006 06/26/99 1802  40CW  K8MAD  2A  OH  W8MK   2A  OH  4

Most of the data is obvious and can be identified quickly. The definition of the ARRL format file is somewhat vague so the data in your file might appear slightly different (the above example came from NA, obviously). Here are the important things to look for:

1. Using this technique, you can easily view the data. This is the layman’s way of saying its an ASCII file, as opposed to a CT .BIN file or a NA .QDF file which will be displayed as gibberish on the screen.

2. There are no headers or blank lines in the file. Most programs generate files intended to be printed, which have column titles and headings, page breaks, etc. In our experience, THIS IS THE MOST COMMON MISTAKE ENTRANTS MAKE, taking a printer file and trying to submit it as a ARRL format file. This creates a tremendous amount of manual work for the logcheckers.

3. By looking at the data, you can determine if the file is for the correct contest. In the example above, the sent exchange (2A OH) and received exchanges are readily apparent.

As I said in my previous e-mail, 300 of the 1300 ARRL 10M logs looked like what you see above. The other 1000 don’t. You can imagine how much manual work this is to correct by hand.

If anyone has any questions, drop me an e-mail.


Dave Pruett, K8CC

Using NA with State QSO Parties – K8CC

Eating & Sleeping

Sleep Deprivation – GM4AFF/GM0F

Sleep Deprivation – GM4AFF/GM0F

Subject: [CQ-Contest] Sleep Deprivation Summary
Date: Wed, 8 Dec 1999 14:40:53
From: “S Cooper”

From the subscriber that brought you the now infamous ‘Last 2’ thread. Now! Sleep Deprivation.

…or how to last a 48 hour contest without feeling like death… It was obvious that my ‘Sleep Deprivation’ message started a thread which some found interesting. I have tried here to summarize the postings which I received. I hope it’s of some help.

There is no doubt that the human metabolism will function better over a 48 hour period of little sleep, if attention is paid to fitness and diet. Diet seems to have the most obvious and immediate effect on the ability to last the 48 hour period.

1. It’s a proven medical fact that we should sleep in multiples of 90 minutes. Most sleep 90 mins on early Sunday morning, and some on Saturday morning too. In general, it seems like a good idea to get 3 hours in before the contest starts, which is easy in Europe, but difficult in West USA. Varied feelings about whether to get a ‘lie in’ on the Friday morning, but certainly not good to have a very late night on Thursday. ‘Adrenaline’ seems to be a big factor for some in keeping you going through the weekend. For others, the opposite is true – relaxed and laid-back gets them through. Whether you’re wired or tired, it makes little difference to the final result. It’s the ability to sustain concentration that matters.

2. Drink in moderation, but regularly. Drink to quench thirst. Do not drink caffeinated beverages. Caffeine will lower the blood sugar level thereby affecting the ability to concentrate. Coke, tea and coffee contain caffeine. Milk will make talking difficult – radio and TV news readers avoid milk. Unsweetened fruit juice, a little often, is good. It is far more difficult to wake up if you have managed to get to sleep with a high caffeine level.

3. When to eat? Stick to eating at regular intervals. Every 6 hours with a small snack at 3 hr intervals is good. Normal eating times are also good. It’s what your body expects.

4. What to eat? The objective is to maintain a steady blood-glucose level of around 4-5 mmol throughout the weekend, with a slightly higher than normal intake of protein. In normal healthy individuals, high blood-glucose levels lead to poor concentration and drowsiness whilst low blood-glucose levels lead to irritability, short temper and loss of aptitude. 4-5 mmol, a moderately low level, will be achieved by avoiding anything containing simple carbohydrates like sugar or bleached pure white flour. So, good is wholemeal bread, bad is plain white bread. Good is potato skins, bad is creamed potato. Good is natural fruit juices, bad is sports drinks. Good is fruit, bad is sweets/candy. Whilst sports drinks will give the body a big hit of energy, this hit is followed by a very deep low in blood-glucose levels. Complex carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits and grains) are good, in that they take a long time to digest, help maintain a steady blood-glucose level and help avoid surges.

So what should we eat and drink?
sandwiches of wholemeal bread, with meat or cheese
fruit/grain/granola bars
pure orange juice

5. How much to eat? In general, it is best to eat less food than you would normally.

6. Avoid smoking.

7. Keep fit. This is really quite important. If you are fit your body will react less badly to poor sleep patterns.

8. Avoid alcohol.

9. Avoid working on ‘stuff’ right up to the wire. Prepare well for the contest and ‘know’ that you have. There is a hidden side to knowing that you are well prepared. This will help you relax prior to and during the event, which is one of the keys to making it through the full 48 hours. It feels good to feel loud, and believe that your signal is getting through – ‘I know what I’m doing’. Learn from the previous year. Immediately after a major contest write down what was wrong, what went wrong, what was good, and what was bad. That way, next year you will be a little more prepared, and a little more relaxed.

10. Smile when you talk. Sound happy. Even if you feel like death, don’t let the other guy know it! People like to call happy people. Not a lot of good on CW, of course.

Other points worth noting…

Vitamin B can help you feel less tired over a period of time, and may be beneficial. I would not take this as a recommendation to take vitamins though – see your doctor first!

Tablets/medication like ProPlus (in the UK) which are really just concentrated caffeine, will keep you awake but your ability to make even the simplest decision is diminished, and concentration is virtually impossible. Trouble is, I don’t think you are aware of this if you have taken them! Someone suggested avoiding salt, but this may not be recommended in hot climates, as lack of salt can lead to muscle cramps. It’s unlikely that the lack or even overdose of salt over such a short time frame would have that much effect anyway.

A number of ops mentioned feeling rough for the whole of the week following a contest. I didn’t after the CQ WW SSB, but did after the CW. And I haven’t felt bad like this before – I recover fairly quickly normally. I don’t know what this is all about.

Some ops mentioned a lack of aptitude – the inability to physically send certain complex CW codes. This is probably due to low blood-glucose levels and lack of sleep. The inability to receive more than 3 or 4 characters at a time seems to result from high blood-glucose levels and lack of sleep. What to do? Sleep, I guess!

I don’t want to sound like an expert. I’m not a dietitian. I’m not a top-flight operator. But I am diabetic (insulin dependent), and hence, have a requirement to keep my blood-glucose level under control. I made some fundamental mistakes in the last CQ WW CW Contest, and I am passing on what I have learnt, both from personal experience and from the experience of others. I hope others can benefit from this.

Stewart GM4AFF/GM0F

Power Naps – Reuters Health

Power Naps – Reuters Health

Short ‘Power Naps’ Found Best Performance Booster
Mon Jul 8, 2:46 PM ET

By Nic Rowan

ADELAIDE, Australia (Reuters Health)- A 10-minute nap is better than a half-hour snooze at improving work performance, according to new Australian sleep research.

Associate Professor Leon Lack and postgraduate student Amber Tietzel studied the effect of varying nap lengths in the School of Psychology Sleep Laboratory at Flinders University in Adelaide. They conclude that 10 minutes is the most effective nap length for improving performance for up to 3 hours afterward.

“We were testing the notion of whether power naps, as they’re known in the United States, are really as effective as they are claimed to be,” Lack told Reuters Health. He explained that participants in the study underwent a series of performance tests and were allowed to sleep for precisely 10 or 30 minutes. Their performance level was then retested over the next hour.

“Immediately after the 10-minute nap participants showed increased alertness, both subjectively and in the performance measures, but not with the 30-minute nap,” Lack said. He noted that after a 30-minute nap, participants were actually groggy for up to half an hour as a result of “sleep inertia,” which occurs after longer sleeping periods.

“That surprised us a little bit,” said the doctor. He explained that the team then conducted a second study, this time of performance at 3 hours after a 5-, 10-, 20- and 30-minute nap. Again, the 10-minute nap proved most successful, with the 20- and 30-minute naps producing grogginess that resulted in suppression of performance for up to half an hour after the nap.

“They are not doing any better in the first half hour than if they had no nap at all,” Lack noted. “After 2 to 3 hours, the 10-minute nap is still doing better than the longer naps.” The 5-minute nap resulted in some improvement in the first hour, but that dropped back to no improvement at the 2- and 3-hour mark.

“We have a chronic sleep debt, which to some extent can be repaid by a very brief nap,” Lack pointed out. “For people who are in a sedentary job and trying to fight off sleepiness, it really would be smart for the employer to allow them to have a 10-minute sleep and take away those cobwebs, increase their alertness and productivity, and decrease the chances of mistakes or accidents. From a cost-benefit analysis perspective that 10-minute investment in sleep would really pay off.”

Lack emphasized, however, that “the ideal solution would be to have people get enough sleep at night time.”

File Formats

Cabrillo File Format – N1ND, N5KO

Cabrillo File Format – N1ND, N5KO

Cabrillo File Format for Electronic Log Submissions

Subject: [CQ-Contest] New ARRL File Format being introduced
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 1999 12:04:09 -0400 (EDT)
From: “Henderson, Dan N1ND”
To: “‘cq-contest'”

ARRL Adopts Cabrillo File Format for Electronic Contest Submissions

The Contest Branch is pleased to announce that a new standard electronic file format known as Cabrillo has been adopted for all ARRL Contests. Starting with the 1999 ARRL November Sweepstakes, the Cabrillo V2.0 file format will be the standard file format at the ARRL for electronic submissions.

You may still use any file format which has previously been acceptable for ARRL contests during the next year’s transition period. Starting with the November 2000 ARRL Sweepstakes, the Cabrillo format will be the only acceptable electronic file format for ARRL contests. Stations may still use text editors on their home PCs to generate the log files, but these “home designed” files must meet the Cabrillo file format beginning with next year’s November Sweepstakes.

The Cabrillo file format is the result of a joint effort by software developers and contest sponsors in response to the proliferation of file formats being submitted to various contest committees. For example, in the 1999 ARRL Ten Meter Contest, several dozen different file formats were submitted. While most formats technically fit the requirements under the rules, almost all of the files required significant work by contest staff and volunteers in order to be processed.

Working with the developers of most major logging software programs and with the sponsors of most major contests, Trey Garlough, N5KO developed the Cabrillo format. The major software developers have agreed to incorporate the Cabrillo format into new updates of the programs. Operators should contact the various software developers and distributors for information on upgrades to their specific programs.

The Cabrillo format standardizes what information for each QSO will appear in each column of data. For more detailed information on the format, please refer to the “General Rules for all ARRL Contests” which will appear in the November 1999 issue of QST. Also, the specifications for the Cabrillo file format can be obtained on-line from: Besides the file specifications, you may also view sample templates for various ARRL contests, a history of any modifications to the format, and some insight into the development of the Cabrillo file format.

For information on the technical specifics of the Cabrillo format please contact Trey Garlough, N5KO at For more information on ARRL contests contact ARRL Contest Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND at or (860) 594-0232.

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