DX University™

  A Guide for DXers and DXpeditioners

How About a Real DX Contest?

The WeeklyDX™ Helpful Hints No. 50 from the DX University™*


With the fall and improving HF conditions come DXpeditions and the contest season. DXpeditions usually offer new ones for the multitude of DXers. Contests offer aficionados the opportunity to compete with others in the never ending runs of “DX” stations that fill their logs. These same contests also offer DXers the side benefit of adding some new ones to their band-totals. Contest pileups are relatively small and easy to break because they are spread out over much more activity than is usual.

The first ARRL international DX contest was announced in QST for March, 1927. That article described “An International Relay Party,” “A World Wide Contact Contest to be Held in May.” The official name of the contest was in keeping with the traffic handling themes of the early ARRL. Participants applied to ARRL for a unique exchange that was to be sent to the DX station during each QSO. Three points were received for each exchange received and one for each exchange sent. The contest began at 0000Z on May 9th and ran for two full weeks!” My DX mentor, W6BAX finished in first place in the 1931 running of the ARRL DX Competition. He won with a grand total of 3,000 points. The score was calculated essentially the same as it is today – except four points per complete QSO rather than 3 – and I estimate that his log contained something like 30 QSOs in 25 countries.

Besides the memory of full power AM pileups on 14,203 kHz, my personal recollection of contesting in the fifties was that there were far fewer DX stations to be logged, especially on the West Coast where I grew up. As a result, much more time was spent in the Search and Pounce (S&P) mode. There were more DX stations in the fifties – than in the thirties -- of course, but still relatively few US and Canadian contesters called CQ or “ran” Europeans. Generally, we tuned up and down, down and up the bands.

A two weeks long “DX” contest today would probably not be very popular. This is true because what we know today as DX contests today are really “running” contests. Many operators like to run. Running is fun, but for two weeks? Probably not. Most serious contesters aren’t really interested in whom they work, but how many. In some contests multipliers are more important than others, where the multipliers come almost automatically in the flurry of QSOs. In contrast, I suspect that the DX contest of the thirties was much more of a true DX contest, where the number of multipliers worked was much higher in relation to the number of QSOs.

Early in my time spent in Newington, I talked about a “new” form of contest – a “real” DX contest, where working countries – multipliers – was the primary objective. CQ Magazine sponsors the Marathon, with an objective of working the most countries in a single year. The Marathon has a number of different classes, but the full year length restricts the number of DXers who can seriously compete.

Comparing running contests to true DX contests – or the Marathon – is similar to a comparison of sports car racing versus a US style sports car rally – an event of precise timing, rather than speed, brawn versus brain, if you will. This comparison exists in a number of different sports activities.

I don’t in any way advocate eliminating what has become the traditional DX contest. I like running contests, especially from off-shore locations.  I have participated in a many of these contest from a number of places in the world. But, I would love to participate in something more of a true DX contest, where listening and identification of distant signals was the goal, a true test of DXing skills.

*The DX University™ is a day-long learning session for newcomers and old-timers wishing to hone their DXing skills. The next scheduled session is on Friday, 20 September 2013 at the W9DXCC in Elk Grove, Illinois. You are welcome to join us. Register at www.dxuniversity.com

The DX University sponsors a Webpage that contains ideas and suggestions for DXers and DXpeditioners alike. A revised version of DXpeditioning Basics is now available on the DXU Website. Another recent addition is the DX University Blog. For more information, go to www.dxuniversity.com