Friday, June 14, 2019

General PREP for Radiosport

While each radiosport contest is often different from those occurring before and after the event
I am currently working, we can classify events based on mode/type of contest. 
For example:
  • Mode: Cw, Ssb, RTTY/FT8, Mixed-mode
  • Type of contest: DX, Domestic, QSO Party, SPRINT
  • Contest Length: 4, 12, 24, 30, 36, 48 hours
  • Serious operation / Casual operation
Depending upon which of the above categories apply for a given contest weekend,
I make the required preparations enabling me to run the best contest event I can.

For example:
  • Before EVERY contest for WQ6X certain things apply, including:
    • Checking the Space-WX as well as the local WX
    • Eyeball the radio equipment, the antennas, the cables, and anything
      else hardware-related.
    • Make sure there is plenty of Kona coffee ready for brewing,
      along with a supply of Cherry Cola.
    • The rules of EACH contest are read thoroughly to determine:
      • Should I run Single-OP Assisted or Unassisted?
      • In single-band contests, should I run Cw-only, Ssb-only
        or mixed-mode.?
      • Should I run single-band or multi-band?
      • Should I run high power, low power or QRP?

  •  Before a Cw contest, a number of things should be attended to:
    • Code Practice - W1AW @048.5 Khz on each band.
    • Tune the band(s) testing the Cw-narrow/audio filters.
    • Load up and test the Cw memory keyer memories.
    • Check the Key/paddle cables and repair them if necessary.
    • Make TEST CQ calls and note the RBN statistics.

  • Before an Ssb contest I usually do the following:
    • Test the microphone(s) and their cabling.
    • Practice speaking your callsign & each element of the exchange.
    • Load up and test the voice keyer memories.

  •  Before an RTTY contest both ends need to be tested:
    • Tune the band(s) for RTTY signals ensuring proper decoding.
    • I transmit a special "Tasting 1,2,3...." message which allows determining the proper transmit audio levels and the duty cycle for the power level being run.  Luckily, my FT-1000mp can run full-duty at the full 100 watt level with barely
      a trace of dissipated heat.

  • Before Dx contests, a number of things are important:
    • Checking DX Maps at different times to see the propagation paths,
      offer a propagation picture as reported by the spotting websites/receivers.
    • Listening for signals at different times of the day give an indication of what propagation is REALLY like.
    • Listening to the NCDXF and Letter beacons can offer insight as to what areas of the world will be most beneficial to focus on.

  • Before domestic contest events like Sweepstakes and Field Day, certain things
    are important:
    • Tracking the Space-WX K-Index levels just-before/during the event offers
      an indication as to the continent signal levels that can be expected.
    • Checking the RBN stats from my test-CQ's on each band to determine
      what are the most effective "pipelines" to what areas of the continent.
  • Before state/area QSO parties I make it a point to find out what the county structure is.  Most state QSO party websites have information (or a link to such information) about the counties.  Logging software (such as N1MM+) has built-in county lists for each event.
Being well-prepared for every radiosport event makes a huge difference, not only when everything runs well, but most specifically when things go wrong.  Proper event preparation makes it easier to more easily switch to a "backup plan" immediately and continue forward as effectively as possible.

Do YOU make elaborate preparations for radiosport events?
What steps do YOU take?

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