Bring it on!

Using Dual watch 
There have been some blog posting regarding the ARRL State QSO party challenge. After looking over the ARRL site regarding this "challenge" it is something that can fit right into my schedule. My wife Julie works most Saturdays and Sundays, our weekends are Tuesday-Wednesday. This leaves me with time to jump into the weekend QSO party fray! In the past (post-retirement) the weekends were occupied with yard work, food shopping and cleaning house BUT now that I am retired all these things can be done during the week now.
The kickoff (Super bowl lingo) to the ARRL QSO party challenge was very busy with 3 QSO parties this weekend. The BC QSO party, Minnesota QSO party and the Vermont QSO party were in full swing this weekend.  The challenge to me was how to participate in 3 contests using only one contest software program?  The software I have used in the past for contests were N1MM+ and N3FJP's contest software. I did read regarding Scott's N3FJP's contest software that you can run multiple contests using API (application program interface). Now I never claim to be a computer guru and API meant nothing to me until Thursday last week when I read about it on the N3FJP software user group site. For this weekend I used N1MM+ and loaded all three QSO parties and just loaded the contest I was logging in and for the time being, it worked just fine for me until I can read up on this API thing.
Why has the ARRL QSO party challenge appealed to me:
- I have the weekends more or less free now.
- These contests are not a full 48-hour effort.
- They are local meaning North America and low sunspots do not have as much of an effect.
- Maximum power is 100 watts so most of us are on the same level of playing field.
- The modes are CW, Phone and in some QSO parties, the digital mode (FT8 and FT4) has been            embraced so there are lots of opportunities no matter what your choice of operating is.
- If CW is your forte I have found the speeds are slower and sometimes a TU (thank you) and 73 is      added to a contact.
BC QSO party shot

So how did the first weekend of QSO party contest go.......
Vermont QSO party:
This was a tough one as I made only 2 contacts both on 40 meters and I felt because Vermont is close to home my contacts would be ground wave. I was not able to hear any Vermont stations on 20m at all. I had to settle for 2 contacts with a score of 16. When I visited the contest score webpage 3830 I was shocked to see that all others had scored low as well.
Minnesota QSO party:
There was more action in this contest but for some reason, the only station I heard were ones I already worked (Dupes).  I ended making a whole 7 contacts in this contest for a final score of 98.
BC QSO party:
In this contest, I was able to hear lots of BC stations but the conditions were changing very fast such that I would make the contact but then they went below the noise level. I ended up making 6 completed contacts with a score of 116 but lots of contacts that ended up being incomplete as they were washed up in the noise floor.

The benefits of the these QSO party contests:
- It gets me on the radio as most of the time just planning to get around to it never happens.
- I want to enter the CW category this will help me improve my code.
- When CW slows and if the contest allows digital FT8/FT4 I will give this new way of contesting a       go. 
- Allows me to learn more about my Icom 7610 in contest situations.

Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

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