Contesting to the fourth level station

Mega station antennasWhen you contest from big stations, you are really trying to get to the “fourth level” of stations that are in the contest.

The concept of levels is interesting, but probably not well known. Here’s my definition of the three levels of stations in a contest:

  1. The mega-stations. They open the band. They close the band. If you can’t hear them, the band isn’t open. K3LR, W3LPL.
  2. The “typical” ham station. On the higher bands, a tri-band beam. On the lower bands, a competitive vertical with lots of radials or a very high dipole in relation to wavelengths. Usually have an amplifier as well. Oh, that I should have a typical ham station…
  3. The “wire” station. All wires or a multi- band vertical on all bands. May or may not be optimal in terms of height for wavelength or not enough radials to be effective. Most likely running barefoot. But, they are on the air and can work people in optimum conditions.
  4. The “attic antenna” station. When you get QSL’s from stations that have wire antennas in attics running 5-watts, you’ve hit the fourth level.

If you think about it, working a contest is working at the noise level. The bigger the antennas, the better you can hear those fourth level stations trying to work you. And in the game of maximizing contacts and multipliers, getting to the fourth level is what differentiates great contest stations from contest stations.

Scot, K9JY

Wow Scot!

So I am a 4th level station. All my attennae 80 meters through 70 cms are in the attic and I have been QRP since 2004…except when I guest op at another station. While the difficulty is there, I do think my operating skills have improved due to this situation. To me nothing beats the thrill of getting through a pileup, contest or otherwise, than doing it with 5 watts and attic antennae.


Jeff – K3OQ –

Scot, K9JY

Well, better than me — I’m not on the air right now except as a guest op! I don’t know if you call them levels or tiers or whatever, but the purpose of big antennas is to be loud so as to get through pile-ups quickly and be big on receive to hear people with antennas in attics. You work more people that way and get more points.

And I agree on the operating skills. Which also means something at stations with big antennas as well.

Working at the noise level, using your operating skills to get through pileups — and having fun doing it — is a lot of what makes contesting a great part of the hobby.

Scot, KA3DRR

Fascinating concept and thank you for airing the breakdown from 1 to four. One can develop station goals and much more from this conceptualization. Also, keep listening tabs on level-1 stations throughout a contest as a level-3 wire station. They act as propagation beacons? Additionally, may I incorporate the level system into my blog as well?

73 de Scot, KA3DRR

Thanks for stopping, Scot.

Yes, I’ll often go and listen to “level 1” stations just as a measure of current propagation. They tend not to move around much or are spotted quite frequently, so it is easy to do.

And, sure, incorporate the idea into your blog. It should be great fun.

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