WA2HOM is far from a contest station, but we do enjoy participating in the contests, especially now that our beam makes gives us a decent signal on 20m, 15m, and 10m. Why? Because it’s fun. There are several ways to enjoy amateur radio contests even if you’re not a “big gun.”
Last weekend, for example, the CQ World-Wide (CQWW) SSB DX contest was on. So, what we did was take advantage of the contest activity to add countries to our DXCC list. Over two hours of operation, we managed to make 63 contacts, including at least five new countries. The new countries that we added to our log included Iceland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the Cayman Islands, and Madeira Island.
None of these is rare DX, but for whatever reason, we hadn’t worked them before. Now, we have.
Operating in a contest is also a good test of our radio and antennas. It’s true that contest signal reports are basically meaningless, but if DX stations regularly hear you on your first or second call, then chances are your antennas are working well. If they’re continually asking for repeats or never hear you at all, it’s a good bet that you need to do some antenna work.
We were working most stations on the first or second call. I even tried calling CQ for a while. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very successful with that, so I went back to the “search and pounce” technique. This tells me that we still have a ways to go compared to the big contesters.
We also enjoy working the smaller contests, such as state QSO parties. One reason for this is that they are a lot more friendly and laid back than the big contests like CQWW. Phone operators, for example, will often comment on your signal or even offer a bit of information about their QTH. One thing’s for sure. You learn a lot of county names.
In the end, it’s all about having fun. We have fun working contests, even if we don’t have the time or the equipment to be truly competitive.