CQ Contest? Then do so!

First off: Shalom from the Holyland! Yesterday I received a nice contest award for the Holyland DX Contest 2007. It is a full color glossy award. And guess what? It says I’m #2 for Belgium. I’m not used to that – I always get "1st Belgium" awards   ;o)   So I was anxious to know who else was working 4X. It turns out to be Joe ON4JZ / OP4K. Great, he made over 50 QSO thus doubling my QSO count of 21. I forgot I was in that contest. But it was fun and if circumstances permit I’ll try to work some again this year. Thanks to the contest sponsors for the award and the booklet!

Now why the subject of today’s entry? I’m a subscriber to the CQ Contest Email Reflector. I seldom post there but the last two weeks I hit shift+delete most of the time without reading. What bothers me is the endless whining about:

  • Supposed packet cheating and how to deal with it.
  • SO2R: to be considered assisted or not?
  • CW Skimmer: to be considered assisted or not?
  • CW Skimmer: will it ruin CW contesting? Will CW skills become obsolete?
  • What is the most popular contest and why someone chooses NOT to participate in a given contest.
  • A recently drilled well of new discussion: reduce WPX from 36 to 30 hours?
  • Overall unhappiness with contest rules and what should be changed to suit some individual or group’s needs. See all of the above…

I don’t feel the need to ventilate my personal opinion but since this is my own private soapbox I’ll just do so anyway. Like the movie quote: "opinions are like assholes, everybody has one". Reader beware!

I use packet when allowed and submit assisted. No packet allowed = not used here. I play by the rules. Honor and ham spirit are worth more than scores. Packet can improve the fun factor though sometimes you don’t really gain by using it. Since the majority of contest QSO’s are made with casual DX operators who tune the bands (or click the bandmaps for that matter) we should welcome packet. But please follow the rules even if you don’t like the rules. Check the logs, catch the cheaters, expose them if the evidence is undeniable. But don’t bash them too hard nor humiliate them.

I like SO2R. It gives me something to work on, a new skill to learn. It’s fun and improves score. It gets me through the slow hours where I went to bed before when the low rate gently rocked me asleep. I see it as single op and unassisted. It is my who does all the work, who messes up when a QSY takes too long, who invests in equipment to use SO2R. Don’t like SO2R? Then don’t do it. But please stop whining about it!

CW Skimmer? A nice gadget, but I have no plans to try it and certainly not use it. I spent years to become good at copying CW. For almost 2 years now I’m trying to get rid of my SO2R dummy status and gain some skills. Why should I use a goofy piece of software that turns CW contesting into RTTY contesting? No way! If someone wants to use it, that’s fine. It’s not even ‘assisted’ as a CW decoder is not assisted either. Technological progress is good. But I see CW as an old craft one has to master. Copying by ear especially with two different bands in each ear gives me a thrill. Staring at a screen doesn’t. You could go to the supermarket and buy a loaf of bread. It’s edible, it fills your stomach but it’s light and spongy. We bake our own bread here (the XYL’s dept.). It’s not cheaper than a mass consumption bread off the shelf but it sure is a real hefty bread that smells like one and fills with half the slices of the supermarket sponge. Satisfaction is the key word: you put your time, effort and knowledge into baking a bread. The bread tastes better. Copying by ear and finding and decoding your own QSO’s tastes better. I don’t see what all the fuss on CQ Contest is about. The real advantage of CW Skimmer in a contest remains to be seen. I have my doubts that it will turn the best op into a better op or turn an average op into a good operator.

I don’t care what the most popular contest is. I have my own list of favorites. I don’t do a contest because it’s popular but because I’m a contester. That’s what we should do, NOT posting (hell) yes – (hell) no messages. Sometimes a given rule doesn’t please me. So what? Dura lex, sed lex. The sponsor is boss and he sets out the guidelines for a contest. Wanna play? Follow the rules. Why keep whining about all this? Try to make up your own contest with your own set of rules and see what gives. I’ve been there: trying to manage a contest and serve the public’s interest but be flooded with e-mails to see a rule changed because it’ll suit them better. What does a passionate ham do? Throw the towel and get back to making contacts in stead of dealing with malcontents.

I think people have enough of this whining on the CQ Contest reflector. Myself, but I recently read someone else has too. I still receive the reflector’s mails. If the subject of a new topic pleases me I’ll read it. Boring or ever ongoing pro-con threads (see list above) will get a shift+delete from me. When I joined I thought the CQ Contest reflector was a contesters-helping-contesters thing. Maybe I could have learned something, or asked help or advice regarding a contesting issue. But lately there is a negative vibe there that makes contesting look like it’s rotten. Which it isn’t. But you need to actually call "CQ Contest" on the air and not send a mail there to find out.

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