Thursday, September 27, 2007

Some Pre-Fall Contesting Tips from N1MM

Contest season is upon us. Now is the time to get ready for the big
contests coming up this fall. Here are some suggested steps for your

All stations

+ Print out the key assignments help file and mark it up with a
highlighter. Use one color for things you know how to use, and another
color for keys that you didn't realize were there but are interesting.

+ Learn how to enter frequencies from the entry window. You can type
14022. If you are already on a band, you can type offset from the
bottom of the band or the last three digits of the frequency. On 80m
examples are 22 for 3522 and 795 for 3795.

+ Learn how to set split. Use the callsign textbox if you have not
already copied the call. e.g. On 40m, 214 ctl-enter will set your tx
freq to 7214. Use Alt-F7 to set split when there is already a call in
the textbox. A recent change allows you to clear split by pressing
Alt-F7 and pressing enter with no frequency entered. Esc still leaves
split alone.

+ On many radios, the up/down keys tune the radio or the rit depending
on whether you are running or s&p. You can adjust the step amount in
the configurer.

+ Learn to use check partial. I find it is usually faster to make a
good guess at the callsign and let them correct you than to just say
what you know. I usually ask if their call is correct.

+ On CW, use ESM. It's a skill that pays big rewards in believe it or
not, reducing stress. Instead of thinking all the time "what key next",
the program does it for you. Also learn to use the = key. It means,
send the last message. Another good trick when you are tired.

+ Make sure you understand how the bandmap and callframe work even if
you are not assisted. As you work stations, they will be "spotted" in
your local bandmap. This allows you to skip over them during your next
s&p trip through the band. This saves a lot of time. The call will
appear in grey in the callframe as the station gets within the
user-definable tuning tolerance. Grey means you worked them. Tune on.

+ Make sure you load the lasted wl_cyt.dat and check partial files prior
to the contest. Note that the wl_cty.dat has to be imported into the
program. A step many forget.

+ During the contest, if you work a station that is not handled properly
by the country file, just put the correct prefix in front of it like
(W8/N8SS), then log with Alt-Ctrl-Enter. You can put a note to check it
later. You don't want to take a lot of time to fool with it during the
contest. The other approach is to use Tools/Add call to country. To
use this, you need to know the base countries in cty.dat. A printed
copy at the operating position is helpful in this.

Assisted or multi-op stations

+ You can use the available window to help determine band strategy.
Bands with lots of available spots are likely open well to where the
spots are from.

+ Loud stations can jump from spot-to-spot and pick off many Qs. Be
sure to confirm the callsign. Spot quality has been deteriorating. You
don't want to get penalized for a broken call.

+ Remove broken callsigns with Alt-D. If the call is in your callframe,
Alt-D will delete it. Quick and easy. Otherwise use the right-click
option from the bandmap or available list.

+ During slow times, you may need to turn your antenna to "clean" a band
of spotted stations. Clicking on the beam heading column heading lets
you sort the list so you can get them with minimum rotor movement. Note
that clicking all of the headings works. Click a second time to reverse
the sort. Default sort is descending on spotted time (last column -
usually hidden. Scroll over to see it.)

+ Be sure to adjust the spot timeout and the filtering based on time of
day and conditions. If times are slow, I allow more spots through. At
peak times, I want last 20 min, North American spots only.

+ Try "call stacking" mode. In multi-op, you can specify another
computer as the "target for call stacking". If both stations set this
to each other (recommended) they can see what each other types in their
call textbox in the callframe. This *only* works if they are on a run
frequency. The idea is that you have two ops with headphones listening
to a run. If the secondary op copies the callsign, the primary op can
wipe his and just press enter (in ESM mode). Since the correct call is
in the callframe, it will be pulled into the call textbox and be sent as
part of the exchange. This mode has not been used a lot, so I would
recommend some ambitious souls try it out and let me know what needs
changing. Also note that this function works across the internet. Now
there aren't many contests that allow this -- IARU for HQ stations is
the only one I know of -- but wouldn't it be an interesting kind of
entry class? You could have one big gun and lots of listening stations
supporting it. If you do this across the internet with stations
exceeding the contest's separation limit, you must submit your log as a
check log. The internet mode is useful for practicing with your
Multi-op partner without the necessity of going to a single location.

Tom - N1MMPublish Post

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