Its that time of the year when amateur radio frequencies light up like a Christmas tree on the air. Pretty much every khz of the popular bands (20m, 40m) is occupied with voice recorders spewing out CQ/QRZ calls from contesting stations. Other bands are busy too depending on propagation and conditions.
And then there are a few regular rag chewers (group chat types) trying to weather the onslaught of busy bands, and try to talk at length as usual. Occasionally, a contest station would wander around and end up transmitting on their frequency and be given a piece of mind from the rag chewers. Fun to listen in.
Its all quite remarkable actually. Most contacts last not more than a few seconds, enough to exchange information for the contest log book. First of all, for the uninitiated, Amateur radio contesting is all about making as many “contacts” as possible in a short period of time. Points are earned based on how many continents, countries, areas, etc. you make contacts in and then the number of those contacts. There is a long list of contests that happen every year.
If you get into contesting seriously, it is an excellent way to learn about and optimize your antenna, radio setup for optimal performance. With the equipment all set, one would need to come up with a strategy of what bands to operate on and during what time of the day/night. That is based on propagation data. Propagation data is available from various sources and also have translated versions like this –
Once equipment is setup and propagation based strategy is set, then comes the workflow of how you run the equipment. There are various categories of operation like SO2R – Single Operator 2 Radios. Combine that with the type of modes one can run the radios in – CW (Morse Code), Packet Radio, SSB (Single SideBand – Voice).
Yes, its not just about talking to random people anymore. Its a sport. A Radiosport.
I need to fix my home shack antennas and try contesting from home sometime. Here is a video of an operator handling a pileup (tens of stations trying to contact YOU). I have done a bunch of these as well for W1AW/6 and its a lot of fun –