The Players at ZL2G
The Jock White Field Day contest rolls around every year near the end of February and the ZL2G team always hopes for fine weather to put up antennas, tents and guy ropes. We are seldom disappointed. This year the weather in Hawkes Bay was a cracker and Stan ZL2ST, John ZL2QM, Wayne ZL2WG and Lee ZL2AL planned another assault on the Patea trophy operating from the ZM4T Contest site in the hills above Tongoio beach about 30 Km north of Napier.
We arrived Saturday morning and pulled up the horizontal full wave loops for 80M and 40M. Antennas checked out OK. Over many years and trials with other 40M antennas we find that a low horizontal loop, being a NVIS antenna works the best for us. The vertical full size loop works very well on 80M. Two FT1000MPs were used, one being the Napier Club’s radio. IBM computers running N1MM software along with K1EL keyers and Bencher paddles complete the setup. The club’s Honda generator was fired up and working. This is probably it’s 25th or more field day outing. Thanks to Karl, ZL1TJ who repair some smashed AC power outlets from an accident last year. Stan’s tent somehow managed to stand up again in one piece and the stations were quickly set up. Antennas were checked again, measured and trimmed and strangely we were ready for the 3PM start.
Antennas were measured and trimmed and strangely we were ready for the 3PM start.
The contest opened up and within the first hour 40M was well ahead of the pack and 80M was just in front. The rest of the day fist day was in a close race with ZL1XH, ZL2QF, ZL1VK and a couple of other stations for top honours nationally. The central region was a two way race with ZL2QF and we exchanged the lead a few times. ZL2QF sprinted ahead of us on 40M at one point and we were ahead of them on the other band. The end of the contest put us 30 or 40 QSOs over ZL2QF and at the time of writing this Stan is scoring the logs so the outcome is unknown.
Our team has been doing this same contest for the past 35 or years. We also do a few other international contests during the year. We are well aware of trends and operating practices in contests. And we have become so aware over the last few years of how the style and practices of the Jock White contest have simply not changed. Frankly some of the operating practices are archaic and counterproductive to modern contesting. The Jock White has stagnated and 2015 edition was just as poor as usual with some very good and some very bad operating practices heard.
1) Many stations are still using paper logs. This is really unacceptable with the free N1MM contesting program having an inbuilt module to run the JW. N1MM keeps track of band changes, band modes and real time scoring. Stations that use paper logs are doing themselves a disservice by keeping their contacts waiting at times and making so much work for themselves by having to score manually. But what about the contest organizer not accepting electronic logs? That is true but it is such a simple matter to print out a N1MM log and email it to the organizer which is quite acceptable. An N1MM printed log is at the very least readable and scored pefectly which has the make the organizer happy!
2) At least 10% of the ops were using a hand key. In fact some of the CW was almost unreadable. Worse, the op had to repeat and repeat wasting his time and ours. Most radios have built in electronic keyers with perfect timing. The N1MM logging program generates its own serial number exchange perfect each and every time. I can the the bleating I write this. “But I don’t know how to use a paddle, or I don’t know how to do this or that”. Amateur radio and contesting is all about finding a solution to a problem. Just make an effort to learn a new skill and do it!
3) At least 1/3 of the ops were using “Fifer Niner” on phone instead of clearly pronounced English speech. The NZ Jock White contest is the only contest on the planet where old WW2 British military and NATO pronunciation is used. I cannot understand why as this type of number exchange is quite unnecessary, doesn’t add any readability and frankly sounds ridiculous.
4) At least 3/4 of the stations were answering with “My number to you is” Of course it’s his number to me. I am hearing him!!!!. The correct is exchange is “You are five nine (pause) “one seven three” (S/N) (pause) “Branch two five” (Branch) “Over” and do not repeat the exchange without being asked for it!
5) A third of the ops would repeat back the number to me that I just gave them before giving me their number sequence!!!! One infuriating station consistently gave me his full report and numbers as soon as I finished a CQ without me acknowledging his call and that I had actually heard him. It is bizarre and it changes the pattern and sequence of operating.
These practices just continue on year after year and do nothing to improve contest operating standards. New operators in the Jock White contest simply ape the style of stations they hear and fall into the same poor practices. It is obvious that most have never participated in a modern international contest. I think that the Jock White contest deserves better and it can only get better if these practices outlined above were acknowledged as being silly and counter productive.
The ZL2G team enjoyed ourselves immensely as we always do. There is nothing better than spending a weekend away playing radio! It is a great outing each year working on antennas and portable power. We knew what to expect and that’s the game we are in. That’s the Jock White Field Day contest for 2015.Will we do it next year? Maybe. Maybe not!
73, Lee ZL2AL and the ZL2G Team.