Friday, July 9, 2010

There’s a contest on HF again this weekend. The stations are reporting 59 zero-three-four or something else ...

Q Kim, N6LP asks, “There’s a contest on HF again this weekend. The stations are reporting 59 zero-three-four or something else. I’m not a contester, but I like giving them a point for my contact (and picking up new DXCC entities and states in the process). I’ve heard several different reporting methods. Sometimes it’s your grid square (I know that one), and other times it’s something else. Why are there so many different contest exchanges? How do I find out what they are looking for without having to waste their time and ask?”

A Contest exchanges depend on the sponsors of the event and generally are different in order to provide variety. Exchanges will range from grid squares (primarily in VHF/UHF contests) to serial numbers (in many contests) to names and states (North American QSO Parties, for example) to multiple pieces of information (ARRL November Sweepstakes). In contests sponsored by the League, you may find the exchange includes your ARRL/RAC section or state. In most contests sponsored by CQ, you will find that you exchange the CQ zone in which you reside (see Figure 1). Similarly, during the IARU HF World Championship in July you send your ITU zone (which is different from your CQ zone. See Figure 2).

The easiest place to start to unravel the mystery of the contest exchanges is “Contest Corral” which is published monthly in QST. See what contests are taking place on a given weekend and listen to several of the stations sending their exchanges. Also, “Contest Corral” will often provide Web links for more extensive rules and other information.

Rules announcements for all ARRL sponsored contests are usually published in QST in the month preceding the contest (i.e. September VHF QSO party rules are found in the August issue of QST.) You can also find all of the current ARRL contest rules and forms at the ARRL Contest Branch Web page at:

Figure 1—CQ Zones of the world.

Figure 2—A map of ITU zones.

From QST April 2000