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Friday - November 01, 2013 - Amateur Radio at the Beach - Amelia Island - KH2D.net
Contesting - Island Style
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Before I went to Guam in 1985, I'd played around in a few contests. I had even visited one of those World Famous Mighty Multi places, but they didn't let me get anywhere near a radio because I wasn't a 'real contester'. My most outstanding achievement in the world of contesting was winning the Delaware QSO Party, from a campground in Delaware. Couldn't win the Maryland QSO Party from home because too many 'real contesters' were in that one...

So I guess you could say my contesting experience was 'limited', as was my pileup experience. In Maryland I don't remember anybody ever answering me when I called CQ, more less running any pileups.

Guam, on the other hand, is a place where you don't have any trouble getting people to answer CQ's. My first time on the air from Guam was a Saturday afternoon, from a friends house, KH2A. Since my WB3 call didn't sound very Guamy, I borrowed Harvey's call to see if I could drum up some answers to my first CQ's from Guam. By the time the smoke cleared (after dinner on Sunday) I had worked over 900 stations, and I think I only called CQ about 3 times...

I decided that maybe contesting from Guam would be a little different than contesting from the campground in Delaware, so I decided to give it a try. It turned out to be a whole lot of fun.

I'm not one of those 'real contesters', never was, never will be. I just enjoyed working the pileups on contest weekends because they were busier than the usual pileups, and I didn't have to chit chat with anybody in a contest, I could just keep logging and watching the rate meter. I never bothered to 'massage the logs' or worry about who I beat or who I didn't, I just sent in the logs when the contest was over and then checked to see when the next one was coming up.

Over the years I collected some awards - a few nice plaques, a bunch of certificates. I actually didn't know how many certificates I had until I dug them all out of the closet and started working on this section of the web site. Most contests I have awards for I don't even remember being in. A few bring back some good memories. So I'll try and tell you about the few that I do remember, and give you some secret tips on Contesting Island Style.

KG6DX, Joel, was the resident 'real contester' in Guam when I got there. He became my mentor, always offering tips, suggestions, and encouragement, and I repaid him by introducing him to my friend the computer which over the years saved him countless hours that would have been spent duping and checking contest logs by hand.

It's easy to get contest certificates from Guam - since Guam is a separate 'country', you just need to enter a category that nobody else is in, and you're an automatic winner. I have a bunch marked 'First Place Guam' (more on that later), but I never sent in any logs with 10 Q's. My strategy was to pick a band that would be busy and before the contest pick some winning results from a previous year that I would attempt to beat.

I only won one contest with the number one score in the world, the All Asian, sponsored by the JARL. I'm not sure what year it was, 1987 or 1988 I think. But as luck would have it, my logs got 'lost in the mail'. Back in those days nobody took logs via email, and two pound package of logs, dupe sheets, and multiplier sheets that I mailed went to La La Land instead of to Japan. Not much you can do when the results come out eleven months later and you aren't in them.

It's hard to present an exact summary of contest wins that I managed because of the way certificates are issued. One of KG6DX's pet peeves was that when he did well in a contest, but didn't win for the whole world, CQ Magazine would supply him with a certificate which read "First Place Guam" but never mentioned the fact that he was number TWO for the whole world. So some of my certificates say "Continental Winner", some say "2nd World", some say "Zone Winner" but some just have the good old "First Place Guam" stamped on them.

KG6DX and I did some complaining to the powers to be, and tried to explain to them that it was more important to us 'real contesters' how we did vs. the world instead of how we did vs. Guam, but the powers to be never paid much attention to us. Joel was always a bit more 'hard core' about this contest stuff than I was, so he'd always attach a magazine clipping of the top world standings to his certificate before he framed it and added it to his contest wall, and I'd just tossed the certificates in whatever drawer had space or what ever box was open at the time and forgot about them.

After one round of complaints to CQ Magazine, we were both convinced that either they were ignoring us, or they just didn't care that we were complaining so I decided to try another plan to see if they were awake.

I decided to enter the 1988 CQWW SSB DX contest as a single band entrant on 160 meters. Only problem was, I didn't have an antenna for 160 meters. So I rounded up my 40 meter dipole, my MFJ (Mighty Fine Junk) 3KW (ha ha) antenna tuner, and a fire extinguisher, and got ready for the contest. I didn't do real well, but I didn't get skunked either. I did manage to work one station on 160 meters. KG6DX (about 4 miles away). Problem was, he was in the same COUNTRY as I was, so the country (KH2) counted as a multiplier, but since he was in Guam, and I was too, the QSO scored no points.

But what the heck, my goal was FIRST PLACE IN GUAM (and to try and wake up the CQ Magazine guys) and since nobody else in Guam was on 160 SSB during the contest, I knew I had it locked up. My score was nothing to write home about - 1 QSO (ZERO points) times 1 Multiplier for a grand total of ZERO points. So I printed the log, and the multiplier sheet, and the dupe sheet, and sent my package off to CQ Magazine (with a note reminding them to PLEASE DON'T FORGET to send me my certificate that says FIRST PLACE IN GUAM). Which they indeed did. It says I'm the winner for Guam with a "Total Score of **0** Points." Click the certificate just above this paragraph if you'd like to see it.

That was fifteen years ago, but if you bang around in the CQWW record books, I think you'll find I still hold the record for Guam on 160 SSB with a total score of ZERO points. And you'll find my call a few other places in the records too. I think earlier I said that I never won a contest for the whole world. But guess what, I just noticed that I did! I set a NEW WORLD RECORD for 10 meters on CW with my #1 WORLD score! Maybe that's why that certificate has those nasty fold marks on it, I never unfolded it to look at it...

So by now you must be wondering what the secret was. Big antennas? Huge amplifier? Sleep deprivation training? A special diet of Power Bars and Granola for two weeks before a contest? Did I magically transform myself into a 'super contester'? Nope, none of the above.

My pileup handling skills improved as the years went by, there are times I remember seeing the rate meter up around 300 per hour. And times I remember being bored when it got below 200. But the secret to Contesting Island Style is very simple. You just need to be on an island. And you need to understand what drives the system. People who call Island Contesters during a contest are rarely other contesters. They are post card collectors. They don't want Q's and Mults. They want post cards.

The biggest antenna I ever had for contesting in Guam was a tribander up 35 feet on a chunk of fence rail pipe. I didn't train hard, I didn't study propagation, I just turned on the radio and worked as many people as I could and stayed awake as long as I could. I remember having a neck to neck race one weekend with a guy in VK land - we both feel asleep at the keyboard near the end of the contest but he won because I feel asleep first. A couple more bags of M&M's and I might have won...

You don't need huge towers, big amps, and monobanders to win when you Contest Island Style. You just need a little go power and a great QSL manager like K8NA...

One of the most memorable contests I did Island Style wasn't from the island of Guam, it was from an island named Oahu. I was in Honolulu in 1998 for a trip to the doctor, which resulted in some cutting and stitching, and while I was hanging around healing up I got invited to KH7R's QTH for the WPX contest.

Like I said earlier, I'd been to one of those multi multi places years ago, but they didn't let me anywhere near a radio. I was a little nervous, I didn't want to disappoint anybody by not being a 'real contester', and I didn't know most of the guys that would be there to operate. I think the gang was a little nervous about me too, I remember a few people kind of hovering around in back of me watching the computer screen when the contest started...

I was operating on 10 meters, and sitting next to Mike, KH6ND, who was on 15 meters. Since we were using CT and it was networked, we could see on our computer screens what the other bands were doing and a little bit of a horse race developed. I don't think I ever did catch up with or pass Mike, but it didn't take too long until the guys behind me that were watching decided that the snack table was more important than worrying about whether I was a 'real contester' or not. I still think that the only reason Mike won the horse race was because propagation on fifteen was better than it was on ten that weekend.

It turned out to be a really great weekend, I met a bunch of guys I hadn't met before, and I found out that sleep deprivation is a lot more fun if you do it with a group of other 'real contesters'.

It you ever get a chance to do some Contesting Island Style, I'd recommend that you do. You'd be amazed at what you can accomplish with a lousy antenna and a few thousand QSL cards from W4MPY. I also think I mentioned that I had no idea how many contest awards I really have because I never put them all together in one place. I dug through the boxes in the closets, unpacked a few more that hadn't been unpacked yet, and dug around in all the drawers. The result of that digging around, added to the fact that I just bought a new scanner I wanted to smoke test, is the Contest Awards page on this web site. If you're interested in seeing what a bunch of First Place Guam awards look like, with a few good ones mixed in here and there, then give it a click.

My favorite contest awards are the plaques from the Japan International DX contest, which is sponsered by 59 Magazine in Japan. I always managed to have fun in this contest because of the excellent participation - maybe the nice plaques are what keeps people interested. And I just figured out there was ANOTHER contest I won for the whole world, the JIDX SSB in 1997.

I have tried contesting from this island (Amelia Island) but the results from the contest aren't back yet. I did the Florida QSO Party in 2001. Now that I think about it, maybe there are times when you are on an island that some really big antennas would help. I don't think I set any world records in that one. Oh, that's right, I forgot. Nobody wants a post card from Florida...


Friday - November 01, 2013 - Amateur Radio at the Beach - Amelia Island - KH2D.net
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