Episode 20: Who’s on first? Real-time score reporting

Episode 20: Who’s on first? Real-time score reporting

Spring has hit us with full force in southern British Columbia. This is Bud VA7ST, and I’m sitting here with a bit of a sunburn from my first couple of days of full warm sunshine and looking forward to the next six months of outdoor activity.

Operating in a contest often means giving up big chunks of a sunny weekend in favor of fun on the radio. It’s quite an investment of time, and if there’s anything we can do to make that time  even more enjoyable and less isolating, it’s worth doing.

We toil away with purpose during a long contest weekend but – at least for single-operator unassisted  categories – we intentionally avoid sharing details about where we are making contacts or whom we have found on the air. But that doesn’t mean we have to be isolated from our competitors.

I thought it might be interesting to begin this episode by looking at a few outstanding contesting community resources that can help add to the enjoyment we get from our investment in time and station-building.

Live, online score reporting

In recent years, thanks to the availability of Internet access from just about anywhere, a growing community of contesters are posting their live contest scores in real time to online score reporting services.

These are quite sophisticated online pages that gather up-to-the-minute contest scores from around the world and publish them live. Anyone can go online and watch the competition unfold, with stations jockeying for position in the various categories.

Over the years, I have found this to be one heck of a motivator to try harder, to keep my butt in the chair and keep turning the dial or turning the antenna looking for that next valuable multiplier or contact.

There are two primary online score reporting sites – I like them both.

Contest Online Scoreboard

This site works with all the popular contest logging programs, including N1MM Logger, WriteLog, DXlog, Win-Test and several others. The development team includes Victor VA2WA, Alex K2BB, and Randy K5ZD, and they’ve done a masterful job of building a site that is easy to use and reliable.

You can view a station’s total score up to the minute, along with the number of contacts they have, and a band-by-band breakdown, as well as their multiplier totals.

CQcontest.net’s scoreboard

Also compatible with all the major contest logging programs, CQcontest.net is a powerful score reporting site. Developed by the R4W team in Russia, it’s very popular with the global contest community.

It, too, offers a variety of ways to view the live scores – you can dive down into the details of a station’s activity, view statistics and even view hourly rate graphs for any station, all in real time.

One-stop score reporting

The good news is you don’t have to choose which online scoreboard to which you want to submit your score. There’s a very handy single address that you can plug into your contest logging software that will take your score report and automatically forward it on to both sites.

In your logging program, just point the score reporting to this address:

http://www.b41h.net/scoredistributor.php

This is a score distributor that will forward your reports to both Contest Online Scoreboard and CQcontest.net.

And don’t worry about breaking any rules by posting your score to an online score reporting site. These resources are used by many of the world’s preeminent contesters and have been designed by outstanding and scrupulous contest operators. I am not aware of any contest rules that prohibit real-time score reporting – your online score doesn’t tell anyone what frequency you are working, or who you have worked in the contest. At most, another station might be able to figure out what band you are on but not where on the band they would find you.

So give it a try. Both sites provide good guidance for setting up your particular logging software to automatically report your score in real-time.

Official score submission

One final note about score reporting. After the contest, remember to submit your official entry log to the contest sponsors. Many contests these days have short submission deadlines – some as short as a few days after a contest. Every contest will list the “log deadline” in its rules. If you miss the deadline, your log might end up being considered a “check log,” which means it wouldn’t be eligible for the competition but is still highly valuable to the log-checkers as your log can help validate the log entries of other stations.

3830scores.com score summaries

And, if you want a little more fun, consider posting your claimed score to the 3830Scores.com website. The site has custom forms to post your claimed score for just about any major contest and many smaller regional contests.

A lot of contributors like to include a brief write-up of their experiences in the contests, and these make for interesting reading in the hours and days after a contest is over. It also makes a great archive from year to year, which can be a valuable source of expert knowledge as you prepare for the next contest.

I like to use the score comparison tool to see exactly how my totals on each band matched up against similarly equipped stations in my category. It’s amazing to see how one station in my region can do well on 80M while I suffered, or vice versa. It’s useful intel to help assess your station’s weak points and strengths.

And that is how a station-building to-do list keeps getting longer.

Recapping April conditions

Our last episode was at the end of March, and at the time we were looking forward to a handful of contests in April. Looking back over the past four weeks, conditions were a real mish-mash.

The EA RTTY contest on April 7 and 8 produced surprisingly good results for us here on the North American West Coast. 20M was open to Europe from VE7 for hours both mornings, and strong enough to work down into the second tier of stations. The European country multipliers and the Spanish multipliers added up quickly, and  I ended up with my sixth best score in the 14 years I’ve been recording my entries. That’s not too bad considering we’re in the trough at the bottom of solar cycle 24.

The following weekend brought the Japan International DX CW contest on April 14 and 15. While we on the west coast usually enjoy and advantage when working Japan, in this contest the bands were truly awful. I ended up with just 12 contacts with Japanese stations, in only 10 prefectures – that’s just 10 multipliers out of a possible 50. Conditions were so poor I only entered as a 20M single band operation, and only put in about an hour as there just weren’t enough workable stations from here to justify more time.

On April 22 and 23, our Brazilian friends sponsored the Manchester Mineira or CQMM contest. I spent about five hours in that one and managed just 61 contacts and eight South American contacts. To my surprise, I had more contacts on 40M (including more South American QSOs) than I did on 20M.  That tells us something about the strength of 20M that weekend, which is kind of typical of high band conditions at solar minimum.

On the final weekend of April, we had the British Amateur Radio Teleprinter Group (BARTG) 75-baud RTTY Sprint, and the SP DX RTTY contest.

In the Polish-sponsored SP DX RTTY, conditions were rather flat but not as bad as they had been on the previous two weekends. Running low power this time out, on 20M I was able to work a few Europeans, including a handful of Polish stations for multipliers. Participation seemed down a bit from recent years, which is to be expected as the bands aren’t in good shape, but as solar cycle 25 revs up to speed in coming years we should se a resurgence in weekend contest participation rates.

Before the BARTG 75-baud RTTY Spring, I checked the rules and was reminded to check the list of “Expert” stations before the contest began. In BARTG-sponsored contests, anyone with a top-10 finish over the past year is required to enter the Single Operator Expert category in the subsequent two years. About 40 stations each year make the list and remain there for two years. To my surprise, I made the Experts list in 2017, so I now must compete with the other “Expert” stations through 2019. That made my day – I had no idea I’d been in the top 10 last year.

The 75-baud Sprint is interesting for three reasons:

  1. It’s only four hours long – starting at 10 a.m. Pacific time (1700z) on Sunday, and ending at 2 p.m. So, it’s an action-packed sprint indeed.
  2. Continents are multipliers – so you multiply your contact points times the number of DXCC countries and W/VE/JA and VK call areas worked, times the number of continents worked.
  3. The sprint is operated using higher-speed radio-teletype. Normal RTTY is 45-baud, and while you wouldn’t think 75-baud is that much faster, it really is. Calling CQ takes a second or so, and an ideally brief two-way exchange takes perhaps six seconds. That makes for very quick QSOs, and at times the contacts-per-minute rate can be very high.

With the bands in sorry shape, the sprint was definitely a daylight-only 20M single-band contest. In BARTG contests, there is no differentiation between low- or high-power entries – you compete against everyone, regardless of power level. So, I ran the amplifier, putting about 500 watts into the three-element yagi. I tried like crazy to work as many continents as I could find. For me, North America is automatic, and it would take quite a disaster to prevent me from making at least one European contact in broad daylight in the morning hours.

I pointed the antenna in all the best directions, calling CQ and combing through 20M over and over hoping to run across an African station – perhaps the Azores or Canary Islands, or Morocco, which are the most likely African stations to work from here in most big contests. It was futile. When the four-hour clock ran out, I had just North America and Europe in the log, and nothing for Asia, Oceania, South America or Africa. It was very disappointing, but that’s life in the trough.

Volta RTTY

May is a bit thin on big contests, but there is a great RTTY contest on May 11 and 12 – the Italian-sponsored Volta RTTY – it’s incredibly fun because scores soar quickly into the millions, and some really successful stations will have scores in the billions of points before the weekend is done.

Each contact is scored according to a points table, based on the distance between you and the station you’re working. Then for multipliers, you multiply the QSO points by the number of DXCC countries and call areas of the US, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. It makes for great fun, so if you are able to get on the air for some teletype contesting, I’d highly recommend this one.

CQ WPX CW

Then we have one of the year’s biggest contest – the CQ Worldwide WPX CW contest on May 26 and 27. WPX is short-hand for “Weird Prefix” because the multipliers in this contest are each unique callsign prefix. That means working stations with the callsign prefixes of W6, WA6, N6, NN6 and NK6, for example, would give you five multipliers! Scores rise quickly and it’s a complete blast.

CQ WPX CW is a two-day event, but single operators can only work 36 hours of the 48-hour contest so picking your 12 hours of off-times is an important part of a winning strategy.

I don’t have the stamina I had a decade or two ago, when I’d put in the full 36 hours, so I usually max out at about 28 or 30 hours of operating time. I’ll get on from the start – which is 0000 UTC on May 26 – and keep going for about the first 10 hours. That takes me to about 3 a.m. local time on Saturday morning, when I’ll try to get five hours of sleep before getting back on for the usual 20M morning opening to Europe.

Typically, I’ll take a two-hour nap on Saturday afternoon as 20M goes soft but be back on as 40M begins to open across North America in the late afternoon, and I’ll work 40M and 80M through the night – again, until about 3 a.m. or so. Then repeat that cycle through Sunday.

Who knows what the propagation gods will deliver for us. I do know that we’ll all be in the same boat, no matter the conditions, and it will be extraordinary fun to make rapid contacts on packed bands.

If you’ve never competed in the WPX contests, you should give it a try. The exchange is super easy to copy in Morse code, because it’s just a signal report – almost always you’ll receive a 599 report – plus a progressive serial number. And that’s usually fairly easy to copy. Stations should have the courtesy to slow down for you, if you’re sending at a slower speed. I sure do, because I remember what it’s like to copy code on paper before it became second nature.

To give you an idea of how much fun you can have in this one, I looked over the past 10 years of my entries, going back to 2008. In every year except 2011 and 2013 when I was part-time, I made more than 1,000 contacts in this contest. And usually I end up with about 1,200 contacts – the pace is frantic at times and for a lot of contesters, that’s what we crave.

You can do well in WPX CW even with a modest set-up. For those who don’t know, I have a three-element yagi for the high bands, and it’s on a little crank-up tower that puts that antenna at a modest 47 feet in the air when fully extended. But I usually compete with the tower nested so the yagi is only 27 feet in the air. And I do just fine with plenty in the fun-factor department.

It doesn’t matter what gear you have. Just put it on the air and jump in – you’ll enjoy it a lot.

And if you’d like to add an extra element of fun, please do consider posting your scores either in real time during the contest (via Contest Online Scoreboard or CQcontest.net’s scoreboard) or after the contest on the 3830 Score Reporting site, so we can see how you did.

That’s it for Episode 20 of Zone Zero. Now, let’s go get ‘em. I’ll see you out there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Replies to “Episode 20: Who’s on first? Real-time score reporting”

  1. I just re-read the rules for CQWPXCW and the exchange is only a serial number. Not the zone as you indicated.

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