Contesting is a competitive activity pursued by amateur radio operators. In a contest, an amateur radio station, which may be operated by an individual or a team, seeks to contact as many other amateur radio stations as possible in a given period of time and exchange information. Contesting can be great fun but it can also help to develop your station and your operating skills.
Some prefer operating with a club using the clubs equipment. This can be helpful when you are part of a team, pulling together to do the best you can collectively and is particularly satisfying when you do well. Some operate solo, mainly from home but sometimes portable. This can be quite a challenge but very satisfying to slowly hone your station, over some months, or even years to work the best it can.
When you work regular contests (such the RSGB UKAC series) you then can be rewarded with a wide circle of friends to which you talk to on a regular basis. Portable contest operating brings into play your engineering skills as antennas in particular need to be easy to transport and easy to erect in all weathers.
HF contesting can be fun using simple antennas and with a larger catchment area than VHF, and contests attract stations not normally heard on the bands. This allows you the work the world when conditions are favourable and can be akin to fishing where you cast your CQ CQ out and wait for a bite. When you attract a rare or distant station you get a terrific buzz.
If you should decide to take part in a contest be sure to thoroughly read and understand the rules before you start. Every contest has its own rules such as only certain bands may be used or the contest only takes places between certain times and on certain dates. Some contests also require “off times” when you are forced to leave the air. Quite often there are different ‘classes’ within a contest so generally there is an operating option that appeals or fits your station setup. An exchange of information is always necessary during each contact. For example you may be required to send and receive a serial number, location and name so check what the contest needs.
You can keep a contest log on paper and submit the paper log at the end of the competition. Most contesters, however, do their logging by computer. The computer keeps track of the time, score and much more. Your log is your contest entry and without it your score won’t be considered!