Working the CAS contest

This morning i heard a lot of stations from northern Europe on the air calling contest.
Personally i don’t like contests, but it’s a good way to make a lot of contacts and to practice your operating skills so i decided to give it a go for a while.

So how do you work a contest?
First of all you need to know what the contest is about. You need to know the rules. Listening to the operators in the contest i heard somebody calling “CQ Contest. <callsign> in CAS Contest”. So i went to Mr. Google to find out if there was a page made about this supposedly CAS Contest.
I ended up on http://sactest.net/, the web of the Scandinavian Activity Contest. There is a excellent section with the rules of the contest.

  1. Scandinavian stations will try to work as many non-Scandinavian stations as possible and vice versa.
  2. Radio amateurs all over the world are invited to participate.
  3. Start en Endtime.
  4. The 3.5 – 7 – 14 – 21 – 28 MHz frequency bands
  5. SSB only
  6. Lots of rules regarding operating modes
  7. Lots of rules regarding how to log, where to send it, etc.
So now that i know this i can start participating in the contest. First thing i do is, now that i know the rules, listen how the contest is progressing. 
Some operator is responding to a call with “<callsign>, 59, 1563”. <callsign> is the callsign of the station he is contacting, 59 is the signal report, 1563 the progressive number. This is the 1.563th contact this operator is making. And i am just starting!! I don’t think i will win this contest…

I call and on my first call i make the contact. “<mycall>, 59, 1564”. I respond “Confirm 1564. You’re 59, 001, 73” “Confirm 001, 73”
Today i enjoyed a lot moving across the bands listening and working some stations.

There are a couple of things to remember when you are participating in a contest:

  • Before calling, listen to the contest rhythm and adapt to this rhythm. 
  • A contest station wants to work as many stations as fast as possible. Make it short and sweet.
  • Never give your callsign twice when calling a contest station. Once is sufficient;
  • If the contest station copied your complete callsign, do not repeat your callsign and just give him the required contest report;
  • If the contest station returns to someone else: DON’T CALL! WAIT!
This article was like the contacts in the contest itself, short and sweet. If you need to know more, if you have any comments, please let me know.


Studying for my HAM Radio Amateur diploma.

At the moment I am studying for my HAM Radio Amateur license. If everything goes well, I will have my first exam on October 22, 2011. So in a couple of weeks.
I don’t know a lot about electronics, so that part is hard for me to understand. Electronics is a completely new world for me. But that is not the hardest part.
I am a native dutch living in Spain, so I have two alternatives, either do the exam in Holland or in Spain. Both have their advantages and disadvantages:

Example of an electronics question in the dutch F license exam

Holland
In Holland there are still two types of license. A N(ovice) license and a F(ull) license.
The N license seems fairly easy to do. basically what you need to know is basic electronics, antenna theory, radio regulations and radio operation practice.
N license owners are allowed to work the 2m and 70cm bands and parts of the HF bands.
The F license is a lot harder. Basically you need to know A LOT of electronics. The organization managing the exams in Holland is the Union for Experimental Radio Investigation. Their objective is to promote radio experiments and therefor, to pass the F exam, you will have to be able to design and build a basic radio, diagnose a badly behaving transceiver, etc. Stuff like that.
The N license is comparable to the ARRL full license and gives you access to all bands assigned to HAM Radio.
These strict exams have caused that in Holland the amount of new HAMs is very low. Normally what you see in Holland is that N license owners work all bands. But this is still not according to the rules and therefor illegal.

Electronics question from the spanish exam

Spain
In Spain the situation is completely different. There is only one license and that license gives you access to all HAM bands. The exam for this license is comparable to the exam for the N license in Holland. So fairly simple. Since Spain is divided in 9 regions, passing the exam also requires that you know some spanish geography.

“So, “, you would say, “do the exam in Spain and that’s it!”. But it’s not exactly like this. As I said, I am dutch, my spanish is ok to get around, but I don’t know any technical Spanish at all. So, I don’t know electronics, I don’t know technical spanish, what are my chances to pass the exam? On the other side, electronics is Holland is so advanced, I would have to study for six years to understand that.

Final Remarks
Maybe i am in a particular situation here, being dutch and living in Spain. Although i don’t think so. There are many foreigners here. And if those foreigners want to become HAM Radio amateurs, they will run in to the same issues i explained here.

My question is the following:

  • If the HAM Radio are supposed to be the same all over the world, how come that in Holland the exams are so much more difficult than in Spain? 
  • How come that in Holland there are still two types of licenses, in the US three (Technical, General and Extra) and in Spain only one?
  • And last but not least: If the common language on the bands is english, why is it only possible to do the exams in the local language and not in english?

At the end I signed up for the exam in Spain. It’s a big challenge for me, but with studying a lot and being optimistic I will have to do it.
And I will! After October 22, 2011 I WILL finally be a licensed HAM Radio operator.