You can give your radios and antennas a bit of a test drive this coming weekend with two different kind of contests, as the popular Islands on the Air test is the main worldwide feature, along with the U.S. Counties QSO Party.
This is the second year in a row that the two contests have shared the bands on the same weekend, as the “MARAC” county hunter contest decided to leave what had become a busy first weekend in May.
The IOTA contest begins at 1200z on Saturday July 28 and runs for 24 hours, but it has a variety of 12 and 24 hour categories for participants.
The U.S. Counties QSO Party starts at 1400z on July 28 and runs through 2400z on Sunday July 29.
There are some rules changes for the IOTA contest, which has grown in popularity in recent years – this from the IOTA web site:
* The World Multi-Operator category has been discontinued.
* Island Multi-Operator stations must observe a “6 band/mode changes per hour” rule.
* Island Multi-Operator stations must identify Run and Multiplier stations in their log.
* The score for World to World QSOs is reduced from 3 points to 2 points.
* Island Stations now receive more points for World Station QSOs.
* Score for Island Stations contacting their own Island is changed.
* Low Power Island expedition stations can now choose any antenna that they want.
Not only are their awards to be won for the IOTA Contest, but the are 22 different certificants available through the Radio Society of Great Britain for those who are chasing islands.
“The basic award is the IOTA 100 Islands of the World and this is normally where to start,” says an introduction to the sport of island chasing on the RSGB web site.
This year’s contest comes in the midst of a two year IOTA chase to mark the 50th anniversary of the IOTA program, which was developed by a British SWLer named Geoff Watts.
From January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2013, the goal is simple – contact as many IOTA islands as you can; the awards will be handed out at the 2014 RSGB convention.
As for the U.S. Counties contest, the “magic number” is 3,077, the number of American counties – only about 800 of those are along major highways, which means it will take more than one weekend contest to put many of those in your logbook.
Last year’s winner of the CW division in the U.S. Counties QSO Party was a very familiar call sign to county hunters, as Jeff Bechner W9MSE activated 49 counties in Michigan to edge Jerry Mertz W0GXQ, who activated 44 counties in South Dakota.
Even in smaller contests, the scores of W9MSE and W0GXQ are a reminder of how important the smallest details might be in your log, as W9MSE ended up with 1,091,148 points to 1,082,655 for Mertz.
For those not on the road doing a mobile operation, there will be plenty of counties available, as Gennady Moshkov NT2A proved that last year, logging 382 counties from his QTH in New York for 1.85 million points.