Thursday, 15 December 2011

Using the DX cluster during contests.

In most or all contests one must chooses to work in either the assisted or the non-assisted class. Making use of any form of spotting network or using the DX cluster put one in the assisted class.

I always find that a fairly difficult decision to make. Having the advanced tool such as the contest logger N1MM with its band map that is automatically populated with spots from the DX cluster is a most valuable tool. Not only does it show the spotted call, but the colour is used to identify the station as being worked or un-worked or as a not yet worked and needed multiplier.

Unfortunately this same tool is being used by most other contesters. Within seconds of a nice rare multiplier being spotted the poor caller becomes swamped with callers that need work the station. This normally results in a pile up of note.

In some cases, some rely so heavily on the accuracy of the cluster information and don’t even listen to see if they hear the station and simply calls blind on the frequency causing QRM and spoiling it for many others.

That brings me to another gripe. Why do some stations insist on calling repeatedly, over and over, without listening to the direction given by the station at the other end of the pile up? No wonder so many rare stations give up in disgust and simply go QRT, spoiling it for the rest.

IMHO using technology to its fullest is the way to go and that includes using the DX cluster, but we really need to have some discipline of when to spot and when not to spot. Then as mentioned, making sure of that the call is correct, making sure that you are in fact copying the DX station and follow the instruction given by that station. Etc…..

I think as a rule I will be using assisted in the future for all contests unless it really becomes unattractive or illogical. For example: The ARRL 10M contest. Using assisted automatically places one in the multi op category. That does not make too much sense to me. It would have made more sense to have a single operator assisted class?

I guess it does not matter all that much. Contests are not only about competing and winning. They also provide us with an opportunity to see the bands come alive with activity and this is the ideal time to seek those outstanding DXCC’s, states, zones or whatever other goals we have…….

73, Pierre ZS6A


  1. Hi Pierre, I absolutely agree with the last part of your post. And did experience the same things as I'm using N1MM as well. Many believe what is on the cluster, but sometimes wrong or false information is given. Listen before calling should be on top of your computer screen not to forget that. I didn't know that using assisted at the ARRL 10m placed you automatically into the multi op category. Well so be it.... 73, Bas

  2. Good morning Pierre, in the past I used to use the DX clusters but as you said the pileup has already begun by the time you get there. As for me running 5 watts max it makes the contact very hard. I have now been using a pan adapter (most recently the Elecraft P3) It gives you a whole look at the band and the signals that are there. Sure you don't know who they are regarding better multi's over low scoring contacts but it sure does help.

  3. I wonder using CW Skimmer in off line mode. Would that still be considered as assisted?

    The combination of CW Skimmer and SDR receivers could be a powerful tool.

    Pierre ZS6A