80 Years of Sweepstakes!


How did it get to be November already?  Here we are on the morning of the 80th ARRL CW Sweepstakes, again, and you can feel the HF bands slowly charging for the onslaught of CW operators from virtually all over the world, all striving to complete the “Clean Sweep” and rack up as many contacts as they possibly can in the 24 hours of permitted operating time.  The ARRL sweeps are an annual ritual for thousands of hams.

SS80 (1)I personally have never participated in the ARRL CW Sweepstakes, for some reason or another I always seem to be involved in other activities on this weekend.  This weekend is no different but all week I have been talking with my friend Ivin Flint W9ILF about running the Sweeps in QRP mode.  Ivin has been an avid QRP contester for at least the last ten years or so, maybe longer.  I can’t remember.  He has successfully won numerous state QRP contests, QRP sprints, and done very well in the national and international competitions from time to time.

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This weekend he will be mounted in front of his Elecraft K2, Idiom Press Keyer, and favorite logging software to make another effort in challenging the ARRL CW Sweepstakes with his CW prowess.  His category will be  QRP – Single Operator and he will not be using spotting clusters, or CW skimmers to assist his QSO hunting. His power will be limited to 5 watts and he will be using wire antennas to make his assault on the HF bands later this afternoon.

W9ILF2009After much discussion this week, Ivin has related to me that he feels like the one biggest factor in doing well or extremely well in a contest like the ARRL CW Sweepstakes, is QSO rate.  Last year his rate was in the low 20′s per hour, meaning he made 20 some contacts per hour for the entire time he worked the event.   The other thing that Ivin pointed out was this event is global in scope and will have thousands of operators taking part, if you want to win or at least place very high in the standings you are going to need to keep your operating position, well, operating.  The ARRL rules say the Sweeps run for 30 hours, and of that 30 hour time frame you are permitted to work 24 of them.  Anytime you log out of the contest  you have to stay logged out for at least 30 minutes. This will require certain strategy to be employed if you want to make the best of your efforts.

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Last year W9ILF had a QRP QSO rate of just a shade over 22 per hour, the winner of the category QRP Single Operator, had a QSO rate of just over 28 per hour.  Ivin was able to participate for 14 of the allowed 24 hours, the winner worked all 24 hours.  It’s a numbers game kids, and it is about survival and being able to sit there for hours, logging contact after contact after contact.

Although I won’t be able to play in this event this weekend, I wish W9ILF all the luck and all the sections he’ll need to make a great showing in the 80th Annual ARRL CW Sweepstakes.  Go Ivin Go!  If you are new to the ARRL CW Sweepstakes, you need to read the article called “An Enticement for Contesting Newbies” located on the eHam site, it is an invaluable tool for the new and inexperienced contester.  Operating Guides and full rules can be found here on the ARRL website.

 73 de KB9BVN

SWEEPSTAKES UPDATE!!!  (21:15 UTC, 3 NOV 2013)

I just spoke with Ivin on the telephone, and he just put his FINAL SECTION in the logbook for his very first ever CLEAN SWEEP!!!  That’s incredible!!  Ivin is still operating until the contest ends tonight at 10PM local, his efforts have been 100% QRP (5 watts) and his homemade antennas.  I now owe him a $4.00 lunch from Steak n Shake, as wagered with him last week.  Great job Ivin!!   A Clean Sweep means Ivin made contact with all 83  ARRL sections in the US and Canada during the contest period.  This is no small feat as it takes a lot of hams literally YEARS to accumulate that many different sections in the logbook. Nice job!