Contest Operating Strategies to Maximize Your Score
Time Available – Five Hours or Less
Operate during the morning and early afternoon. With your beam pointed over the center of Europe at 45 degrees there are over 100 countries within the half-power points of the average tribander. Take 15 to 30 minutes during the afternoon to point the beam SSE and work the Caribbean and South American stations. 10 and 15m are the bands for the fastest QSO’s and multipliers. Remember, stations are found all the way from 28.300 to over 29.000 Mhz. If possible, take at least a few minutes near sunset to work some Pacific and Asian stations. If you are using the PacketCluster, work EVERYTHING they spot.
Five to Fifteen Hours
Concentrate on daytime European contacts on 10 and 15m from 1200-1800UTC. Don’t worry about 20m to Europe before 10m drops out to Europe. Take some time to make some Caribbean/South American contacts and some Pacific/Asian contacts around our sunset. Try to work some Europeans on 40 and 75m for a few hours after local sunset. If you want to try 160m, start looking at the top of the hour for a few minutes at 0300, 0400, 0500 and 0600 if you are still awake!! In the under 5 hour category, you can make QSO’s using the “search and pounce” style just as fast as you can with the “run “ style – calling CQ and working those that reply to your call. When you get into the upper end of the 5 to 15 hour category, you need to do some “running” to help maximize your score.
Fifteen to Thirty Hours
This amount of time in the chair puts you in the moderate to serious effort category, and at this point your score for the club effort will increase dramatically as you add those extra QSO’s and multipliers. In the 15 to 30 hour category, running will make you a much bigger score over just using the search and pounce method. You can get a good night’s sleep and still operate bands to all areas of the world. Of possible, get up at least one morning just before sunrise to catch the sunrise peak on 160, 75, and 40m. The 160m peak is at sunrise, the 75m peak at sunrise to ½ an hour past, with 40m really peaking from 20 to 60 minutes after sunrise. SH/SUN on the PacketCluster will give your local sunrise/sunset times if you have your correct latitude and longitude entered. And you can get the sunrise/sunset info before the contest starts if you do not want to log onto the local PacketCluster network during the contest. Remember that if you have a lowband beam (40 or 80m) you should be pointing into the darkness, not into the upcoming sunlight.
Europe is the name of the game for the most part. As much as 60 percent of your QSO’s will come from there. Packet users should follow the spots provided. Non-packet users should point your beams SSE and make one or two tunes across the band looking for those loud Caribbean/South American multipliers every time you change bands, then go back to working Europe. Between 1300-1800UTC you should be on 10 or15m. Africa peaks in the afternoon but since there are few African stations, don’t keep your beam pointed there for long periods. The east and central Pacific as far west as New Zealand will be starting to make it on 10/15m by 1800UTC. Japan and the far western Pacific will start to come in around their sunrise at 2100UTC. Take a look for Europeans on 40m about 45 minutes before local sunset. A quick check on 75m about 15 minutes before sunset will sometimes find some nice multipliers.
From sunset until each band drops out it can be a very hard choice as to what band to operate. The Pacific and Asia on 10 and 15m; Europe, Africa and South America on 20m; Europe on 40 and 75m. Note what was said about 160m in the 5 to 15 hour category. Many stations go to 160m for a few minutes on the hour. Don’t spend long periods of time on any one band; hop around. Follow the packet spots if you have them. The operators in this category should be able to work DXCC in one weekend.
More Than Thirty Hours
This category means you are really serious!! You are going to lose some sleep at this level. If you have to sleep, take time out when you can’t work Europe on any band. This means, in general, from 0730-1000UTC. You really need to do some running to make this category work for you. Don’t worry about multipliers so much when you are running over 60 QSO’s an hour – many of them will be calling you!! Some DX stations hate pileups and only answer the guys calling CQ. Remember the old adage ”location, location, location”?? In the DX contests it’s “Europe, Europe, Europe”. Don’t fail to seize the advantage we here on the east coast enjoy over the “west coasters”.