The 2012 New Jersey QSO Party marks the first attempt at having our club submitting an aggregate score in a contest. The club can have members operate individually and by including our club name New Providence ARC in the header of the cabrillo file they submit to the contest, we get an aggregate club score in addition to our individual scores.
Contests are held year round and have rules that will allow almost anyone to find something to their liking. Some are of short duration (1-4 hours), while others are longer (24-48 hours), and there are others that go on for months or even the entire year; some are single mode (CW, SSB, RTTY, PSK), while others allow mixed mode; some are single band, while others allow you to work a group of bands. WA7BNM has produced a set of calendars that show most of the upcoming contests listing things like dates and times, modes, bands, exchanges, where to find rules, etc.
In addition to operating in contests for the competition, they can be used in gathering QSOs if you are working towards any of the many awards offered by many sponsoring organizations. These awards include the major ones offered by ARRL (DXCC, WAS and VUCC) as well those offered offered eQSL.cc, CW Magazine and by many clubs that you may choose to join.
Sprint Contests are held for a short time period (usually 1-4 hours) to allow most contestants to operate for the full time of the contest. NPARC has held their FM Sprint since 2010 on the first 4 VHF/UHF bands. Each band was allocated 30-90 minutes of operating time before switching to a new band. Many of the clubs hold sprints each month so that members can have QSOs with each other in mode(s)/band(s) required to attain awards offered by that club.
NPARC FM Sprint
The NPARC FM Sprint held since 2010 was modeled after the Milwaukee Radio Amateur Club's FM Simplex Contest. The contest is comprised a 4 short sprints for each of the first 4 VHF/UHF bands using simplex FM. The order of the bands and the amount of time spent on each varies. Usually a longer time (1-2 hours) is spent on 2 meters as everyone has some kind of 2-meter transceiver. Then a shorter period (30-45 minutes) is spent on the 3 other bands that are covered (6-meter, 1.25-meter and 70-cm).
QSO Parties are held to allow for people to try and make as many QSOs where at least one of the participants are located in a geographical area (a state, FCC region, country, islands, continent, etc.). The geographical area will usually be broken down into sub-units (counties, countries, states, etc.) which count as multipliers. Some state QSO parties also have one or more bonus stations that can be worked for additional points.
The New Jersey QSO Party is held the fourth full weekend and involves New Jersey stations trying to contact as many New Jersey counties, 49 other states, 13 Canadian provinces/territories and a DX country on as many band-modes as possible; while stations outside of New Jersey are concerned with contacting as many New Jersey counties on as many band-modes as possible. Bands for this contest are: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6 and 2 meters. Current modes are CW and PHONE. The winning club entry gets a gavel.
Contest Logging Software
Contest logging software is the norm for recording your QSOs during a contest as most contests are requiring electronic submission of the log. Each year, fewer and fewer contests allow for paper logs. Many contests are also reducing the amount of time until the submission deadline thereby allowing for quicker reporting of the contest results.
The contest logging software automates a number of contesting operations freeing up the operator to focus on making QSOs. Among the features of contest logging software is an input screen that only has the fields required by the contest, automated error checking on the input fields where possible, automated dup checking, cabrillo log file generation for direct submission to the contest organizers, and report generation.
If you like to log your QSOs on paper, there is a web site that will produce a cabrillo file for some of the contest from data you enter into a form for that contest.
N1MM Logger is a very robust contest logging software package that is available for free to run on Windows. They have support for almost all contests and it can be programmed for others with proper knowledge. The software generally is updated 3-7 times per month for bug fixes and rule changes. N1MM has CAT control for many rigs that have CAT control allowing for automatic recording and changing of rig frequency and mode.
Although there is a general logging form, it only includes space for the Report, Name and a Comment. There are better logging software packages available for general logging.
N3FJP Logging Software
N3FJP Logging Software is the package that our club uses for Field Day each year. There generally is a separate program for each contest which has to be downloaded and installed. The N3FJP software can be purchased either for each individual contest or a one-time full license can be purchased to use any of the contest programs.
N3FJP software does include a general logging program that looks much more robust than N1MM for general logging.
- WA7BNM Contest Calendar A good source for upcoming contests
- ARRL Contesting - ARRL Contesting Information Page. Many resources including rules for ARRL contest and a calendar of upcoming contests among other things
- Contesting Compendium - A wiki devoted to amateur radio contesting
- Cabrillo Summary V3.0 - Cabrillo file information from the author of the cabrillo format, also has link to V2.0 information