Home of the Annual Dayton CW Pileup Competition



Tips from W9WI

Doug, W9WI, has been a consistent top scorer in this competition, and has won it numerous times. He provided us with the following tips and strategies...

Strategy for the Kansas City DX Club Pileup Competition:

Bill, K0VBU, asked me to write up a few hints and tricks for this annual rite of Hamvention. There are only a few secrets to this contest, and they really aren't that secret!

The Pileup Competition differs from an over-the-air contest in some important ways. It also has some important similarities. The similarities first:

1) The Pileup Competition uses real calls. If you're familiar with who's on the air and what constitutes a valid call in various countries, you have an advantage. If you don't know what to expect, you're at a disadvantage. If you've been on the air recently, you know that E73DX is a valid call and not a “bust” for VE7VDX. If you hear “9WI” you know it's probably W9WI or WI9WI but probably not KC9WIA.

2) The Pileup Competition has QRM, QSB, and a bit of QRN. If you've been practicing your CW on the air, you know how to copy through this. As in so many pursuits, “practice makes perfect”. If you want to maximize your score in the Pileup Competition, the one thing you can do before Hamvention that will make the most difference is to get on the air and work people.

Now, the differences:

1) You don't have a transmitter. In an over-the-air contest, if you don't get the guy's call the first time, you can ask him to send it again. In the Pileup Competition, you don't have that option. There is no penalty for getting it wrong. In some over-the-air contests, if you log a “busted” call, some number of “real” QSOs are removed from your log as a penalty. That doesn't happen in the Pileup Competition.

3) The Pileup Competition is the ultimate short contest! It's not a four-hour Sprint. It's not a 30-minute NS. It's what, five minutes? You've got to work fast. It is to your benefit to enter everything you hear. Even if you think it's wrong. Don't wait for a complete call before beginning to type – as soon as you hear the beginning of a call, start typing. If you wait for the call to finish, you're going to have to concentrate on remembering what you heard while you copy the next call. Maybe some mutants can do that. I can't. Guess. If you hear “BEE”, enter F6BEE. It's probably right and if it isn't, you get exactly the same number of “points” as you would if you didn't enter anything at all. (zero! - but there's no penalty) If this were an over-the-air contest, you'd hear “BEE” and send “F6BEE? 5NN 04”. Since you don't have a transmitter, there's nothing unethical about guessing...

4) Prepare. Use the warmup at the beginning of the “tape” to set the volume, get the headphones in a comfortable place.

5) Concentrate. I'm surprised how many entrants mention seeing how fast I was typing or how many calls I entered. I often don't know how many I've entered, let alone anyone else's! Hiram Percy Maxim himself could walk into the room during the pileup and I'd have no idea he was there. You don't have time to worry about how fast the guy next to you is working. It will only slow you down, and it won't slow him down... Know when to stop concentrating! When DL7AXX is done sending, he's done. Either you entered his call, or you lost him. If you're still concentrating on trying to figure out whether he was sending DL7 or DL8, you're missing the next station. If you don't have it entered when he's done sending, just forget about it. Don't let one busted call cost you one or two more.

6) Beer: I have a gut feeling (but no statistics) to suggest a modest correlation between blood alcohol and Pileup Competition score. Over the years, I've done it 100% sober; I've done it with enough in the system to get a state trooper's attention; and I've done it with just one beer. I seem to do best in the latter case. I might guess that one beer relaxes the inhibition against guessing when logging calls. Might there be a similar correlation between blood alcohol and UBN rate? I don't think there's any correlation between score and brand of beer. However, as a loyal Milwaukeean who has yet to forgive the Cardinals for winning the 7th game of the 1984 World Series, I believe any entrant found to be drinking a Budweiser should be disqualified.

Regards, Doug Smith - W9WI

Practice a bit for the next competition??
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