Contesting is fun
First of all – be reassured. Contesting is meant to be fun, and you can enter without any previous experience. If you have tried one of the shorter HamSphere contests, such as the 80m club contests, you have a head start.
What are HamSphere contests?
HamSphere Contests are sporting competitions between amateur stations and radio enthusiasts on specific HamSphere bands and modes according to published rules.
What are multipliers?
In many contests, particularly the longer, international contests, the score is computed by taking the total of QSO points on each band, and multiplying by the total number of countries worked on each band. This is an example of a multiplier. So if you work the USA on four bands, that counts as four multipliers.
Prepare the station:
Prior to contesting, spend as much time on the air as you can to become familiar with HamSphere propagation and band occupancy. Even if you are using the HamSphere logging function, have some scrap paper and pens handy for jotting down notes. Make sure you fire up the station in sufficient time to fix any last-minute problems that might occur.
Read the contest rules. You’d be surprised how often this bites you — even experienced contesters.
Test ergonomics. Sitting in a chair contesting a long while will test how well your station is laid out for operating.
Accurate logging. A contest is about working stations — and logging them accurately. If you don’t you get penalized.
Finally, before the contest starts, find yourself a clear frequency that you will use to start your contesting on.
Here's an example of calling a station in an Island contest. You are G9XYZ.
(You will find the International Phonetic Alphabet further down)
5B4AIT: CQ contest, CQ contest, Five Bravo Four Alpha Italy Tango, contest
YOU: Golf nine X-ray Yankee Zulu
5B4AIT: G9XYZ, 59, you are 114
[he sends you serial number 114. Note or remember this information, and transmit as soon as he finishes]
YOU: Roger, 59, zero one two
[you send serial number 012]
5B4AIT: Thank you, Five Bravo Four Alpha Italy Tango, contest
So far, so good. Now conditions are poor, and there are requests for repeated information.
SM7NHC: .... Sierra Mike Seven November Hotel Charlie contest
YOU: Golf nine X-ray Yankee Zulu
SM7NHC: The golf nine station, again
YOU: G9XYZ, Golf nine X-ray Yankee Zulu, over
SM7NHC: G9XYZ, thanks, 59, 1x22
[he sends his serial number, but you miss the second digit. Ask for a repeat before sending your information. ]
YOU: Number again, please
SM7NHC: 1322, 1322, over
[got it this time]
YOU: Roger, 59, one four one, Echo Uniform five
SM7NHC: Is that one four one? Over
[if he's got it right, just agree]
YOU: Roger, roger, roger
SM7NHC: Good luck, SM7NHC, contest
In this moment you will log the station you have just contacted with your QSO # and his QSO #.
You can either do it manually on your paper log or directly in the HamSphere log book. The Log book will assist you with the QSO numbering process.
Where and when are the contests?
Go to the HamSphere Contest Calendar. Each contest will be listed there and you will be able to join in advance. By doing so, you will get a reminding email with contest info prior to the contest. Your HamSphere Log book will also switch into Auto QSO number mode on the day of contest, which means that you do not need an external QSO counter.
Here is a screen-dump from the log book in Contest mode:
The system keeps track of the QSO number and you can simply add the received QSO# behind it with a slash / #, see the picture.
IMPORTANT INFO !!!!!!!!!!!
When your Log Book turns into "Contest Mode", please DO NOT log stations that are not in the contest. And furthermore do not send any QSL cards to stations that are not in the contest.
Why do we tell you this? Because when you log a station in "Contest Mode" and send a QSL, that station will become part of the contest, which he/she might not want
to be. So please make sure you get the relevant QSO Number info to secure that you are logging a contest station.
If you want to log other contacts outside the contest under the contest time frame, please log them in an external sheet such as notepad, Word or perhaps even on paper and enter them into the log later when the contest is over.
Here is the International Phonetic Alphabet which is good to know.
A - Alfa
B - Bravo
C - Charlie
D - Delta
E - Echo
F - Foxtrot
G - Golf
H - Hotel
I - India
J - Juliet
K - Kilo
L - Lima
M - Mike
N - November
O - Oscar
P - Papa
Q - Quebec
R - Romeo
S - Sierra
T - Tango
U - Uniform
V - Victor
W - Whiskey
X - X-Ray
Y - Yankee
Z - Zulu
Find joy in contesting. It’s there. You know it. Go find it.
FAQ for Contesting on HamSphere
Q: If a contest starts at 2012-09-01 09:00 UTC. But what does UTC mean and how do I know what time that is in my time zone?
A: The HamSphere Cluster and Log book are in UTC. Use that time to check your own time.
In example. Right now the UTC on the Cluster shows 09.30, I am in Cyprus and my local time is UTC+3H = 12.30
Q: The suggested time for this contest will benefit the Europeans as most of the American continent will be asleep when it starts. Will it not?
A: The contest times have been chosen so that all continents can at least work 6 hours without interfering with sleep.
Q: Is it with in the rules after I make contact on 80m to ask the contact person to change to 160m and we can make contact there too, to get another point? Would this be ok to do?
A: That is not the the way a contest should work, but I have seen cases where it happens. It does benefit both stations, but contesting stations usually stay on one established working frequency and are reluctant to leave that frequency until it fades out, so it might be difficult to arrange such a QSY.
Q: The qsl number if I understand it right is... 4/12. Would that be my 4th contact and his 12th contact.... Or it would be his 12th and my 4th if he called me? If I called him I have to keep track of that 12 number he gave me and typeit in the logbook!
Here is a well working procedure when you do contesting in HamSphere:
1. Make sure you have an established frequency as well as mic settings OK.
2. Enter the Log book.
3. Call "CQ Contest CQ Contest 'your callsign' CQ Contest" and leave a gap.
4. When a station is calling you. Type quickly in their callsign in log field and hit "LOG Qso"
The system will not log the QSO but rather fill out the rest of the info and instead of QTH in Comment fields you get your QSO number, say #4.
5. Say Station callsign, 59 and your QSO number. Don't log the QSO just yet.
6. Get his QSO sequence number i.e. #12 and put that in the comment field after your number like # 4/ 12
8. Hit LOG Qso. DONE!