Field Day Operating

This article was taken from a series of Field Day bulletins sent to the OVARC membership by Field Day Chairman Tom Kravec W8TK

How to Operate Field Day

In case you have never operated in a radio contest before, this article will explain what you will hear and say. Field Day's objective is to exchange information with as many other stations as possible. The information exchanged is, strangely enough, called "the exchange." Field Day is a very simple contest, and the exchange is your station FD class (for OVARC this year, the class is 3F) and your ARRL section (ours is ARIZONA). We will use the callsign K7T (kilo seven tango).

Tuning across the band you will hear:

"CQ CQ Field Day this is W1ABC Whiskey One Alpha Bravo Charlie Field Day"

You call: "W1ABC this is Kilo Seven Tango Kilo Seven Tango"

W1ABC responds: "K7T 2 Alpha Western Massachusetts"

You respond: "Thanks. 3 Foxtrot Arizona (or Alpha Zulu)"

He responds: "Thanks. QRZ Field Day this is W1ABC"

That's it! You type his call and exchange into the logging computer and move on.

You may work each station once per band and mode. If you type his call and the software sees that you have worked before, it will report "DUPE." Move on.

Search YouTube for audio and video examples of amateur radio contest operation.

Operating tips:

BE BRIEF! Don't repeat the exchange unless you are asked. Don't insert meaningless blather like "Please copy..." A signal report is not part of the FD exchange, so don't give one. A simple "Thanks" (or TU on CW) is easier than saying "QSL" to confirm that you copied OK. Contacts go more smoothly if you provide the other station only what he expects to hear.

TURN OFF THE RIT! Receiver Offset Tuning (Yaesu calls it Clarifier) moves your receiver frequency a bit to better tune callers who are off frequency. If you use it and don't turn it off after the contact, you will not copy anyone then calling ON frequency. So just LEAVE IT OFF!

Contesting Strategy for Field Day 

There are two techniques for operating in a contest. You can sit on a frequency calling CQ and waiting for other stations to call you. This is called “Running.” Or you can tune up and down the band looking for other stations who are calling CQ and answering them. This is called “Search and Pounce” (S&P). N1MM software has two different modes to accommodate both techniques.

Which should you use? If you have a good signal, running is effective. If you have a peanut whistle signal due to low power (QRP) or compromise antenna, running will not be productive so S&P is the strategy of choice. At OVARC Field Day, our antennas and 100 watt power level allow both. Decades of operating FD have shown me that using both techniques produces the best result. First, find a clear frequency (not easy with thousands of stations on the air), call CQ until answering stations stop calling, then go to S&P. I always start at the bottom of the band and tune up. The reverse will work too. When you get to the end of the band, find a clear frequency (see above) and start calling CQ again.

As always, remember that brevity is the essence of contesting. Never repeat unless asked. Eliminate superfluous blather like “Please copy...” Saying “Thanks” is one syllable, saying QRZ is three. Just deliver the information that the receiving station expects.

What about “dupes”? “Dupe” is contesting slang for a duplicate contact. Say you worked a station, logged it, and an hour later that station answers your CQ again. He apparently isn’t using logging software or isn’t paying attention. What to do? Log him again! It’s quicker and easier than trying to explain that he is a dupe, and there is no penalty for working him a second (or third) time.

Why does Field Day score matter?

If Field Day isn’t a contest as some would say, why does the score matter? There’s a dictum of management which says, “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Even if you agree that FD is not a contest, you would have to agree that it is a test of emergency preparedness. The score measures OVARC’s ability to mobilize in case of an emergency and provide communications when other means have failed. Score is based not only on the number of contacts made, but many “bonus” points are available for other emergency-related and public relations activities which occur during the FD period. Read the rules at www.arrl.org/field-day to see what we can do to earn bonus points. Our scores from year to year give us a target for improvement, so even if you’re not into contesting, you can judge our performance by comparing scores over time and against other clubs.