Radio Contesting Can be Fun!

Radio Contesting Can be Fun!
KY4KY: 2013 IARU Contest


Amateur Radio Contesting (also known as radiosport) is a competitive activity pursued by amateur radio operators. In a contest, an amateur radio station, which may be operated by an individual or a team, seeks to contact as many other amateur radio stations as possible in a given period and exchange information. (

Contest:  any race, game, debate, etc., in which there is a struggle to be the winner. (Webster’s New Universal Dictionary)

Competition:  a contest, a match. (Webster’s New Universal Dictionary)

“Endeavor to persevere.” Lone Watie, The Outlaw Josey Wales

Although I have been involved in amateur radio for thirty-eight years, it has only been the last six years I have actively participated in the art of radiosport. I am not an overly competitive person, realizing that in most of my personal pursuits there will always be someone that will out-do, out-score, and far surpass my own abilities. However…I am a person that enjoys a challenge, strives for improvement, and looks for ways to expand my skill sets. In 2006, I returned from a twelve year hiatus from the HF bands. A dramatic change in my career status once again allowed me the time to fully participate in the hobby I have been a part of prior to entering my teen years. As I reconnected with old friends while helping them with their tower and antenna projects, I felt that burning desire to get my own station back on the air. As my new experiences on HF began, I realized that amateur radio had changed dramatically, particularly with the coupling of the hobby with Internet technologies and the enormous amount of amateur related software now available. As I began my new learning curve of the amateur radio of the 21st century, I went immediately back to the basics….CW.  I determined very quickly that my code speed.…well.…I had no speed! Since I was previously an avid DXer, much of my activity chasing those rare and semi-rare DXCC entities involved the use of CW. I began the search for a means to enhance my rusty code copying abilities and was subsequently pulled into the world of amateur radio contesting.I initially used the occasional contest just as a means to improve my code speed, but then I began to enjoy the competitive aspect of the events.  As my participation increased with the more popular contests, my goals changed and morphed as I completed each contest event.  My goals:
  • Improving my CW skills
  • Increasing my operating confidence
  • Striving for a more consistent QSO rate
  • Bettering my score from the last entry
  • Having FUN

The largest hurdle yet for me to overcome is that of endurance.  I need to drastically improve my A.I.S. skills (interpreted as:  butt in seat). It would appear that the most accomplished contesters are masters of endurance, not allowing distractions of any kind during the contest period. Kudos to the top tier competitors that pull this off each major contest, year after year. In July of 2013, I opened my home station for members of the Bullitt Amateur Radio Society to come by and participate in the 2013 IARU HF Championship Contest.

Many of our club members had openly stated their desire for an opportunity to “contest” other than the annual ARRL Field Day event, which we all know is not a contest  😉  !! The IARU Contest is an exciting 24-hour operating event with a simple on-air exchange, with concurrent CW and phone elements, and with many stations or organizations participating around the globe. My goal was for experienced operators to coach and guide the less-experienced ops with initiating a contact, completing the required exchange, and then quickly moving on to the next QSO. With the help of Ralph W4HK and Buddy KC4WQ, we had plenty of contest experience to coach and guide those willing to come by and experience HF contesting at its best.

Ralph/W4HK: Churning out the SSB contacts

While not recommended in most marriages, the husband and wife team of Buddy and Tina Sohl proved to be a formidable contesting pair. Tina responded very well to the coaching provided by Buddy while “running” a frequency during the very active late evening hours. Tina was doing quite well working the microphone as Buddy logged the contacts. I believe we will see more of this team again in the future.

Buddy/KC4WQ & Tina/KJ4QFK


Buddy/KC4WQ doing what he does best…CW!

Eddie K4EDH was eager to get behind the microphone. With the crowded conditions, an extra ear was needed to help Eddie pull some of the calls from the QRM. While on 40 meter SSB, he was able to work into Europe with ease while going up and down the band in S&P mode (Search and Pounce). Eddie was able to work his first DX contacts during this contest. Following a successful contact he would ask, “Where was he located?” I would respond with whatever European country it was….Eddie would initially have a look of disbelief. After several DX stations in a row, he quickly realized that contacting our European neighbors was not really that hard. 

Robert/KF4TYF, Eddie/K4EDH, & Glenn/KE4KY

Rick KC4S has been the club’s Field Day Chairman for the last several years. His exposure to the contest nature of the Field Day event has sparked his interest in the contesting format of other operating events. Being the owner of Elecraft KX3, he has a newfound interest in portable operations, such as the Summits on the Air event. Rick proved a quick learner and was smoothly going from one contact to the next while working SSB on 40 and 80 meters.


What was accomplished??

  • Those that participated had FUN
  • Some worked DX for the first time
  • We all learned from the event
  • Increased confidence while going from one QSO to the next
  • Our Multi-op effort put KY4KY “on the air” during a major operating event
  • After 20.5 hours of operation  1175 QSO’s (~50% were CW)

 There is much written about contesting in books and from chatter on the many Internet web pages, blogs and forums. You can learn much just by participating in one of many major contests, even if it is just for a few hours or for a handful of Q’s. If you are looking for another aspect of amateur radio to keep things interesting, consider participating in a few contests and add a new personal skill to an already great hobby.

My thanks to Eddie K4EDH, Rick KC4S, Tina KJ4QFK, Robert KF4TYF, Ralph W4HK, and Buddy KC4WQ for participating  in this event. My special thanks to Ralph W4HK, without whom this event would not have been as successful as it was.  

See you in the next contest!