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Sprint Operating Tips

There are ways to operate contests and sprints that are more efficient than others and lead to better results. Since the NAQCC is concerned with proper operating procedures and teaching the joy of contesting to those who are interested in the fun and excitement of contests, we offer this page of tips. These tips were gleaned from over 40 years of contesting and observing the best contesters in the world over that time span.

The overall best tip is to always keep in mind "brevity, brevity, brevity." The quicker you make an exchange, the more time there is to make exchanges and thus a higher score for the operator. This is why you hear in the major contests speeds of 30, 40, even 50 WPM being used.

However in our NAQCC sprints we are concerned with helping newcomers to contesting, and we urge slower speed operation. But you can still be brief even at slow speeds in the following ways.

Make your CQ's brief. Call CQ NA K3WWP - no more, no less. If you don't get an answer, do it again after a few seconds, and keep doing it over and over until you do get an answer or give up and move to another frequency or go search & pouncing.

Search & Pounce or S&P means you go looking for someone calling CQ and 'pounce' on them. When you find a CQ, simply send your call letters, nothing more.

When contact is made, again be brief. Just send what is required, nothing more. If the other station doesn't copy something, it is up to him to ask for repeats. This is much quicker than sending all your info two or more times, as the odds are good the other station will copy you the first time.

Let's look at a typical contact exchange between me (K3WWP) and K4BAI. (1) is what I send, (2) is what K4BAI sends.

First with me calling CQ:

(1) CQ NA K3WWP
(no answer - repeat)
(1) CQ NA K3WWP
(still nil - repeat)
(1) CQ NA K3WWP
(2) K4BAI
(1) K4BAI 569 PA 2
(2) TU 559 GA 644
(1) TU CQ NA K3WWP
(and so on)

And with me answering K4BAI's CQ:

(2) CQ NA K4BAI
(1) K3WWP
(2) K3WWP 559 GA 644
(1) TU 569 PA 2
(2) TU
(and I continue my S&P or go somewhere and call CQ)

If you miss an item in an exchange, let's say the RST, simply ask RST? once. Then the other station should send simply 559. One question, one repeat. If conditions are really horrible, you may have to modify this, but don't take it to extremes.

This is the ideal and quickest way to make an exchange. However our sprints are a little less formal and more relaxed, and in K4BAI's case, John and I generally greet each other by name when we make contact except in the very fastest most intense contests. It's always nice to add a little personal touch whenever it doesn't slow things down too much.

Some more tips briefly. Always make sure the frequency is clear when you call CQ by asking QRL?. You'll have the best chance of making contact if you exactly zero beat the station your are calling. Don't bother with procedure signals like BK, K, AR, etc. They are not necessary and consume time.

Mark K5GQ suggests a tip about getting call signs correct. If someone questions you about your call, as in my case - K3WWP? or K3VWP? - you have a couple options.

If the questioner had your call correct - K3WWP? - DO NOT repeat your call, but simply send 'R' for OK - or - 'C' for YES or CORRECT. If you repeat your call, that confuses the questioner because then he may think that K3WWP is not correct, and will probably ask again, all of which wastes precious contesting time.

If the questioner had your call wrong - K3VWP? - then is the time to send your call once or twice again. Just your call, nothing else.

If you are not sure if the questioner had your call correct because you didn't copy all of what he sent - K3 WP? (the space indicating you didn't copy that letter) - then it is probably best to send your call twice and take it from there.

Mark also suggests when asked to repeat your member number do it as follows in his case - 878 NR 878 - in other words your number, NR, then your number again. I prefer just the number sent once, but Mark's method has merit, and actually with my short number (2), it is better in my case and is what I usually do.

Thanks Mark.

These tips are a work in progress, and if you have any questions or suggestions contact K3WWP via the 'Contact Us' link at left.