When 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:
- The mega-stations. They open the band. They close the band. If you can’t hear them, the band isn’t open. K3LR, W3LPL.
- 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…
- 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.
- 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.