Contesting As A Little Pistol
Being a little pistol means that one is not a big gun and whatever you do, all other things being equal, the big gun wins. It is amazing that, knowing this, quite many at www.contesting.com continue to complain about irrelevant issues like packet spots or two radio setups. I have always been a little pistol, more or less. This sets a few serious limitations to my contest operations.
Another major factor is that I am a pretty active dxer. Thus whenever I have had to choose between getting a new one for DXCC, be it an all time new or a band point, and achieving a good contest score, I have chosen to get the new one. In fact, my major motivation to participate in contests has traditionally been to chase the new ones. Achieving success in contests has been a secondary issue. At some point of time, however, a dxer stops getting new ones in contests simply because all the easy ones are already in the log and usually the rare ones do not operate contests. That calls for new motivational factors.
A desire to win provides one possibility to motivate oneself. For a little pistol that is a tough call. Obviously, one needs to set the targets in a realistic way or otherwise one is in the way to disappointment. My thoughts on that are documented in the "Small Station Contesting" presentation at the Contest Club Finland 2004 Meeting. Philosophical issues aside, here is a small recap of my contest history.
In the 1980's I chased DX in various contests with my three band vertical. The only success came 1983 when I won a Finnish activity called Viitosten Vati (The Plate Of The Fives'). Basically, the idea is that only those who have earned their general class license the year earlier may participate, only telegraphy contacts count, and one gets various points for local and long distance contacts one makes in that particular year. I got my general class license in 1982 and the same year also Jami OH7JR got his. Jami is a talent on morse code, much better than I, and he used to be a very active operator. So I thought that I am destined to defeat, but I just kept on going. I had set a target to operate certain amount of time every day, and that is what I did. Surprisingly enough I won. My score was more than 50% better than that of Jami. It was an all time record. Next year OH6LI broke my record.
Getting my first beams did not change much. I tried several single band strategies, some leading to winning Finland in Assisted or Low Power class. A few Finnish records were also broken. But the bands were still filled with dx and my emphasis was on chasing the new ones. At the late 1990's the bands begun to dry of dx. Jukka OH6LI who had a few times borrowed my OH0MPO call had several times urged me to join his operations in Åland Islands. 1999 I did. The Scandinavian Activity Contest in 28 MHz SSB was a good choice as it was guaranteed not to produce any new ones whatsoever. Propagation was poor and my power meter was broken. Probably that was psychologically good, as later when selling my old trustworthy SB-200 I saw that it only produced some 300 watts on 28 MHz. All other bands were ok with 600 watts output. I had to give a good discount and spare tubes to the buyer. I made only about 300 contacts but that was the winning entry in Scandinavia, despite of a Norwegian with better antennas and more power operating seriously the same class. That trophy cost me about 3000 markkas which is equivalent to 500 euros, i.e. almost 2 euros per contact. Doesn't sound much nowadays, does it, but times were tough. I said to Jukka that I couldn't possibly have afforded for more contacts. Part of the costs were actually caused by having my family with me there. This operation motivated me to try Scandinavian Activity Contest in QRP class at home a few times. They were easy wins. Later I returned to Åland Islands with Maukka OH2BYS who owns a part of a major station in a small place called Brändö. My 14 MHz entry proved that you really need to be in control of the antennas you use. Maukka was operating single band 7 MHz and naturally the towers were turned according to his priorities rather than mine. He made a big win, I did not.
1999 also begun a new contesting era for me in the sense that I finally realized that for a little pistol the best contest is the one that does not exist. I had earlier operated several not-so-fiercely competed classes like WPX Tribander Single Element Single Band 21 MHz without being number one. Many others had realized the existence of these classes and they lived in better locations, so what could I do. Well, I could do something they do not do. Winning the world in WPX Tribander Single Element Single Band 1.8 MHz CW was the first one of it's type. At the moment I have nine world wins according to the very same principle.
That is about all that I will ever achieve in contesting. To advance to a serious level means such commitment that it would be, well, serious. Far too serious to me.