Radio W4KAZ

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S&P vs Running

Ed, N4EMG stirred the mental pot with his recent post about S&P contesting. Since I really have not met a lot of contesters that prefer S&P to running stations, it is difficult to address some of the questions Ed raises.

As luck would have it, contesting S&P with modest antennas is almost the only sort of contesting experience I have. Only in the last year have I begun to mix in runs with my more typical S&P operating. A quick glance at my scores by year page show only a couple of contests with 500+ QSO’s. 2006 Sweeps is a good sample of my best mostly S&P effort. It’s also one of the few contests I have kept my BIC for most of the duration.

Beyond that, there is not a lot of information you can use as a comparison. Unless you know the type of station someone uses, it is difficult to make comparisons. Even then, the differences in geographic location, amount of time operated in the contest, antenna height and quality, and operator skill level all come into play. Operator skill level is a tremendous factor. A good operator will run rings around a less experienced op. “Butt In Chair” factor is therefore not limited to the current contest, but is also a cumulative factor. There is no substitute for experience, and that is not unique to contesting.

Contesters seem to migrate away from all S&P fairly rapidly. Many begin that way when first discovering radiosport, although I suppose some jump in and start running right away. Folks come to the point where they realize(as Ed has) that running is the best way to increase rate. Some of the good operators will do all S&P when they are time limited, but even then most folks seem to prefer running. So the data on “all S&P” operating would be further limited if it were available at all.

Power level matters. Running with low power is a challenge. But if you want proof that good scores can be done successfully with low power and modest antennas, I’d refer anyone to look up some of the scores posted by N4YDU. Nate is a run operator, S&P’ing less often, but he is a great op and can rack up QSO’s. He has operated HP a few times, but most of his scores are in the LP category. There are also no tall towers at N4YDU. Nate has a tri-bander at about 30 feet, and a lot of various wire antennas. “Various wire antennas” because Nate likes to try out different things, including dipoles, doublets, loops, half squares, etc.

For low power, CW is the mode to concentrate on. A LP op will have more punch on CW, and better luck holding a run. But don’t expect to be able to hold a run forever with LP and modest wire antennas. There are a lot of HP stations that will see you spotted and squat only 100hz above you to poach your run fq. There are some who won’t even allow the dignity of the 100hz offset. (I have a name for those sort, but it is not suitable for refined company;) Sometimes it is worth dueling, sometimes it is just time to move along.

I personally enjoy S&P operating more than running stations. S&P is fun because it keeps me focused. My best single hour rates are just under 60 QSOS/hr on SSB, and 49 Qsos/hr on CW. The ten minute rate can and does often go higher, but I find it hard to tune, copy, and dupe check much faster than that. Better ops can S&P at higher rates, but their time is better spent running. This is probably why So2R has appeal. When runs slow down the second radio keeps one from dying of boredom in a rate productive manner. Reading a magazine seldom translates into QSOs.

I also find that rate is easier on SSB, when conditions are good. Better CW ops may find just the opposite. Probably everyone would agree that good conditions make S&P a real blast. Except for those that hate S&P.

S&P is really fun when three or four bands are open at the same time. 10m is also fun when it opens. On 10m SSB the bandwidth is so large that by the time you have finished the first S&P pass across the band and start a second pass, all of the run stations might be new ones. That is fun, and I sure hope it happens again. The sooner the better!

Other ways to improve S&P rate are by using packet spots and making use of the temporary memories, if your logging software supports them. I use the memories for those juicy mults/DX. Writelog has three. I generally load two stations needed in the first two memories, and the current frequency into the last. Then I can toggle back and forth between then using mouse clicks as if they were spots.

Even when not connected to packet, using the band map window to load Q’s is useful. By loading a station into the band map, I get to see a “preview” of who might be there when I scan through the second and third times.

A lot of the QRP and LP stations have good antenna systems. QRP is a challenge of a different sort for them. Great antennas are better than QRO, because they work on receive too.

Just some ideas, some of which you already have probably either used or seen elsewhere before. However you choose to do it, concentrate on the fun first. That’s the motivator for everything else.

3 comments to S&P vs Running

  • And S&P is harder because it requires more concentration…that goes away with loss of sleep…

  • The catch-22 there for me is that when I quit concentrating, I get really, really sleepy. When I combine that with my rapidly diminishing attention span, S&P becomes a viable alternative to dreary hours of plaintive CQ’ing.


    73 de w4kaz

  • Ed

    Hi Keith,
    First I want to apologize for taking so long to post a comment – work, family, you know the drill – but I appreciate your reference and reply to the question I’d posed about S&P versus running for modest or low powered contest stations.

    I completely agree with your comment about budding or inexperienced contesters preferring S&P over running. The few times that I’ve tried to run, it’s taken a while before I get into the flow of things, to the point where I’m not asking for repeats on callsigns. But the only way to improve is to put yourself out there.

    I was actually already familiar with N4YDU’s website – I think I’d found the link from your site a few months ago – and I was very encouraged by what he’d written and the fact that his station, while very competent, did not appear lavish or out of reach of the normal operator. Still, you can tell he put a lot of thought into it and does a fair amount of experimentation with his antennas. At least that’s what I came away with.

    I believe that I may be able to increase my scores by forcing myself to spend more time operating and taking less breaks, fighting through the desire to sleep, etc. Also, having recently upgraded, there will be new slices of the contests bands open to me now. That should help.

    But, as you say, it’s all about having fun.
    73 Ed N4EMG

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