Scott Robbins, W4PA said
- "If the whole contest consisted of the most serious contesters, it would be over pretty quick. The casual contester is the contest."
Describe pre-contest planning? Do you sit down in front of the rig and operate?
You know, as you do more of these contests, I think there is less and less planning each time. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. As we all arrived on Thursday and Friday, the planning consisted mostly of "who wants to operate how much and at what time?". There was only a week's notice for me and Chad to go down there -- WE9V made up some potential op schedules on his own initiative Excel that he brought with him, and we ended up using one of those after alittle bit of tweaking. KY1V was even content to do it with no op schedule, just whoever wanted to go could go. The other three of us wanted a little more structure just so we would know who should be sleeping when and operating when.
It's really that you just sit down and do it. The other guys got there Thursday, so they'd already had some sleep. I had 5 hours of sleep the night before because I had to get to the airport at 4:30 a.m. Friday -- so I didn't get on the air until 0400Z, and it was basically wake up, get a Sprite out of the refrigerator and have the headphones handed to me on whatever frequency on 40 meters they had already staked out. Switching operators happens very fast-- often the guy operating will stand up, press the CQ voice keyer button, and hand the headphones to the new op while it's playing.
What made 6Y1V so successful this year?
Combination of ops and station. All 4 of us have made multiple previous trips to the Caribbean to run contests. This was my 9th trip down there, K6AM I'm sure has been on many more than I have and KY1V said he thought he's been on 20 trips so far. They've got a huge station there, good equipment, good antennas.
How important is 'rate' for a station like 6Y1V?
It's essentially everything in a contest like WPX SSB -- because unlike CQ WW there is no stopping to chase multipliers and no worries about burning up the band changes per hour allowed by the rules, either. We called CQ non-stop except when the rate had slowed to the point where picking off some of the packet spots for a few minutes was more productive.
What people who have never been to the Caribbean to operate should know is that it's not all huge pileups all the time. Yes, it is very fun when the rate meter is at 300+ and you're just rolling them off one after the other on 15 meters. There are plenty of times, though, especially in the down sunspot years and after the contest has been going for a while that it gets slow. I had one hour in WPX SSB that I made 12 contacts. I don't have the log in front of me, but there were many hours especially on Sunday where we were just calling CQ over and over. You wonder if anyone is even hearing you sometimes, and then someone in the U.S. will say "Hey, I already worked you, but you're 10db over 9 in California right now..."
Do you recall an intense moment during CQ WPX when the M/2 record hung in the balance?
Uhm -- it wasn't during the contest. We figured we were going to break the continental record. The intense moment was at 2200Z Friday when the electricity went off. We got out the generator and extension cords and were preparing to kick it off running the rigs barefoot -- we'd have enough power to run two rigs and the computer network. Even fired the generator up for a little test run. Fortunately, about 20 minutes after it went down it was back on and stayed on through the whole contest. We left the generator gassed up and ready for action on the front porch if needed.
How important is an entry to intermediate level contester to RadioSport?
If the whole contest consisted of the most serious contesters, it would be over pretty quick. The casual contester is the contest. The guy who gets on and makes 100 contacts, you multiply that by a few thousand people, soon enough you've got a LOT of potential QSO's to be made. You take the most rabid 100 guys and get them on the air and everyone would have worked everyone else in the first 2 hours.
What drives a station like 6Y1V to succeed?
I think we all have different motivations for why we contest. I used to do it to compete against myself, then I wanted to see if I could win something like my state in the CW Sweepstakes, then I wanted to try competing in the DX contests. Some of it is ego, some of it is the accomplishment of putting something complex together over time and seeing it become successful. There is nothing simple about trying to get a ship container full of ham radio equipment and a house in a foreign country organized into a successful contest operation. Even that could be considered a contest accomplishment.
Any recommendations for entry level contesters?
Sounds dumb, but get on the air and operate. Listen to other people operating during contests. Get that conversational CW speed up as high as you can. Don't get frustrated; there are plenty of guys that have been doing this a lot longer and have far bigger stations. Compete against yourself -- you made 150 contacts in Sweepstakes last year? Try for 250 next year. Join a contest club -- people who gravitate towards contest clubs have often been around for quite some time. Ask a lot of questions -- most contesters don't hold their cards close and will tell you anything you want to know.
Setting a record is a huge accomplishment when did the team know?
We were 28 hours into it when we passed the old North America continent record. Unfortunately, what we don't know is whether or now we have won the M/2 category. There seems to be some reluctance on the part of some contest teams to post their scores to the 3830 reflector on the Internet, so I guess we're waiting a year to see what happens when CQ magazine arrives.