Advice on entering your very first contest
George emailed us from Australia: “I have not participated in a contest as yet. I am very interested in participating this year in the Oceania contest. Where do I start?” Good question, George!
First, please browse around this website for background information about the contest, and in particular read the rules.
Calling other people and making contest QSOs
At the contest start time you should hear Oceania stations on whatever bands are open (80, 40 or 20m I guess) calling “CQ contest”. You may also hear DX stations calling “CQ Oceania” or “CQ contest” too. Call any one of them, briefly, and they will have a quick contact with you. They will send your callsign then a report (probably 59, regardless!) then a QSO serial number, usually 3 digits and incrementing by 1 with each completed QSO. You send them their report and your QSO number starting with 001 for your first contest QSO. Make sure to log their callsign, report and serial number, along with the date, time and band or frequency … and that’s it!
The whole process should take less than a minute per QSO … then you both move swiftly on to the next one and so on until the end (08:00z on October 2nd). If you have the interest and stamina, you can operate all 24 hours … but most entrants do the odd hour or three, and some manage maybe 20 hours or so with sleep breaks when the bands are mostly dead (which may not be in the middle of our night, by the way: lunchtimes tend to be quiet on the bands in Oceania).
Note: stations in Oceania can work the whole world, including Oceania and DX stations, for points. DX stations only score points for working Oceania, so active Oceania stations are very popular!
When you are comfortable with the process, you could try finding a clear frequency on which to call “CQ contest” (that can be difficult if the band is busy! Look for a space and check that it is clear by asking before you start CQing). Provided the band is open and you have a good enough signal for people to hear, contesters will soon start calling you. Most will send their callsign just once, then listen for you to respond. If you don’t respond quickly enough, they will give their call again and listen.
You will feel under pressure to hurry along … but it’s most important to pass and log the information correctly, so don’t be afraid to check and confirm calls and serial numbers, or ask for repeats. It is much better to take a moment to get things right than to have mistakes in your log, which may cost both you and the person you contacted the points.
Things to avoid
You can work anyone once per band for points in each event. Second and subsequent contacts with the same station on the same band are called “dupes” (duplicates) and don’t score points. They just waste time and we try to avoid them. Occasional dupes are OK, though, especially if the previous QSO was incomplete or not properly logged by one or other station for some reason (usually QRM or QSB, or fatigue and human error). Simply complete and log all your QSOs, dupes and all, and carry on as normal. Any duplicates are automatically removed when submitted logs are checked by the committee.
Speed is of the essence in contesting: we want to make as many QSOs as we can, as quickly and efficiently as possible, so we tend not to repeat stuff unnecessarily, or exchange superfluous information. Please don’t get into silly habits such as saying “My number to you is …” or “Roger roger, good luck in the contest” on every contact. There’s no need to swap names and QTHs, or tell the other person what equipment you are using – it just wastes time during the contest. Competitive entrants stick to the bare minimum meaning callsigns, reports and serial numbers. You can always catch up for a chat after it’s all over, and swap tall tales about your experiences in the contest!
Being called by a non-contester who expects a conventional QSO and doesn’t understand that you are in the contest can be challenging, especially if you are keen on doing well or winning. Our advice is to be patient. Politely explain that you are in the Oceania DX contest and just need to quickly exchange reports and serial numbers. As it is probably their first QSO in the contest, prompt them to give you “serial number 1”. Tell them you would love to catch up with them after the contest for a chat. Encourage them to hunt around for other entrants to contact. Please don’t be grumpy or rude. Remember that you too were a non-contester once!
After the contest is over
Rest, catch up with sleep and preferably get ready to repeat the the process on CW during the following weekend. If CW is not your thing, you don’t have to operate the CW event as well (each event is scored independently), but it’s a good chance to practice CW and contesting, to work some juicy DX, and most of all it’s fun!
After the contest, check your log/s and submit an entry before the end of October following the process described in the rules … then wait patiently for the results to be published the following Autumn. Meanwhile, reply to the QSL cards you will probably receive, especially the ones with little comments along the lines of “Thanks for my first ever VK on 40m!”. Perhaps clear a space on the wall and get a frame in which to display your certificate.
By the way, logging and submitting an entry is much easier if you use a computer, especially using dedicated contest logging software such as the N1MM+ contest logger – but paper logs are OK if you only make a few contacts (less than 50).
If this is all too confusing, it may help to visit a friendly local contester for advice. If you can, arrange to sit alongside them in the shack during a contest and you’ll soon pick up the process. They may even let you have a go on the air and put in a multi-operator entry. Some clubs enter the contest too, and that’s a great way to get involved and find out how it works. It’s great fun. Contesting can be addictive though, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself hooked on the adrenaline rush!
If you have any other questions, please let us know what puzzles you and we’ll do our best to advise. We hope you will have a go in the OCDX contest and we would very much like to hear back from you afterwards about how you got on. What did you learn? What would you say to someone else contemplating their first contest?
73 and good luck in the contest!