COMPETITIVE AMATEUR RADIO “The most versatile hobby on earth”
Competition is rife in Ham Radio, more so than in any other hobby worth mentioning, this statement definitively makes “Amateur Radio – the most versatile hobby on earth”. We need only switch on our HF sets over a weekend and hear the competition calls coming through “CQ TEST, CQ TEST”, calls from a minor, but very important portion of the Ham population doing the thing that they love most about the hobby. Most other Hams distance themselves or even hate these vibrant competitions because of the bandwidth taken from them and the shallowness of the contacts made: “How can you say this is communicating, does ‘….UR 559… TU’, the only words used, sound like a decent conversation?” However you view this, competition constitutes a very important aspect of the hobby and we had better get used to it – it is here to stay.
Indeed, as with the satellite and QRP groupings, competition and its affiliations are picking up momentum and steadily growing stronger and stronger. The reason for this is that the DX’ers use competitions to get contacts with the rarer DX often participating. Giving points to the DX competitor ensures the DX’er gets logged and therefore qualifies for a QSL card when asked for. During the later stages of the competition the competitors become desperate for contacts and will even work the not-so-strong signals of the QRP Hams, making competitions very popular with QRP DX’ers. DX’ers, QRO or QRP, could work more DX in one weekend competition than would be possible to work in months of DX’ing. Almost every weekend of the year you will find competitions going which are sponsored by various institutions, from Amateur Radio Clubs, Amateur Radio periodicals or National Amateur Radio Associations. You will find competitions for all modes, CW, SSB and even RTTY and all power levels, high power with amplifiers and even QRP. You will find Hams with killer stations, the so-called “Big Guns” preparing for these competitions months in advance. And of course, you will find the QRP competitors with their home-brewed equipment competing in their own class. Some Hams are in this for the certificates, many just for the fun to be had and, as previously stated, some for the bonus DX that can be worked in a very short period of time (often very rare DX).
Just the fact that the allocated band sectors are at least seen as being in use during these competitions makes it worthwhile. It seems strange to me that some Hams will go full-out for DX pileups but will complain about competitions. I would rather take a rare DX station out of a competition than out of a spotted pileup. Another beneficial factor of competitions is that Amateur Radio in itself receives a lot of public exposure in the Ham magazines, club newsletters and even the Internet by means of competition lists, articles and web pages in general that gets into the public domain for all to see. To my mind, and for the betterment of our hobby I am sure, there are three very important topics we Hams should rather nurture than shoot down in flames.
Get in the habit of boosting these for Ham Radio’s sake and in the end all of us will benefit. Trust me on this one. The most important of these three are the competitions – we should go all out for this aspect of our fun hobby; even if not actively participating, we should at least never degrade competitions. The other two topics are so integrated with competitions that harming the one would negatively impact the other, CW (Morse code) and the QRP (Low power) phenomenon. Instead of harming these three aspects of the hobby with our negativity, why not join the fun? Or at the very least if you don’t want to participate, use these fun topics, especially competitions, to enhance the hobby when and where- ever the opportunity arises.
Vic – ZS6EA