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The CW Sweepstakes and Two Radios

In 1988, I started using two radios in the ARRL November Sweepstakes, CW. I was not the first to do so, as many people were doing it before I finally tried it. However, I now believe it to be one of the most significant things I have changed to improve my scores over the years.

This article is intended to inspire you to try two radios.

Okay, so you are not a big gun like Trey, Randy, Jeff or myself. However, I believe that the second radio can still have a significant impact to your score. In fact, I think a low power entry (A power) can actually generate more additional QSOs with a second radio than can a high power entry (B power.)

The Sweepstakes has some interesting characteristics that make the two radio concept really work: long exchanges and slow rates on Sunday. It is possible for a good operator (being helped with good software) to locate three stations calling CQ and determine if they have already been worked during the time an exchange is being sent. Certainly, just finding one new station to work every ten minutes, and being able to work them without losing your "run" frequency would make a significant improvement in anyone's score.

So, your station is modest? A tribander and wires, perhaps? Hopefully you have two radios (I haven't thought of a way to do it with one radio yet.) Maybe you can borrow one from a friend for the weekend. Since most of your second radio QSOs will be "search and pounce" QSOs, you don't need to have the loudest signal on the band (save that for your run frequency.) Low power (even QRP!) and your wire antennas will allow you to work most anyone you can find CQing on Sunday.

There are two things you need to practice ahead of time. First, is looking around for someone to work. You can do this during a CQ and when you are sending an exchange. If your software allows you to do a dupecheck while a CQ or exchange is being sent, then that will help. For those of you who still use a paper dupesheet, you need to be good at it. The other thing to practice is listening to the other station while you are CQing and making QSOs on your run frequency. If you have just called CQ or QRZ and no one came back, and the station you have found has just finished a CQ where he is getting no answers, call him on the second radio. Then, as soon as you are done calling, start another CQ on your run frequency. If he doesn't come back, you haven't lost anything. If he does, wait for his exchange to be done, stop the CQ on your run frequency (if it isn't already over) and send him an exchange. As soon as he gets your info, go back to CQing on your run frequency.

This technique will have little impact to your run rate. If someone answers the "bogus" CQ you made, experience has shown that they will call again the second time. In the 1992 Sweepstakes, I made about 80 QSOs on the second radio, and I can remember three times this happened, and all three times, the station called me again.

I hope you will consider giving it a try. It is a great way to get more out of our station by using operator ability instead of more bucks. It is ideal for the A power station who isn't capable of saturating the bands with a big signal. It is also a great way to improve your multiplier as you always have one ear looking out for the VY1 who is on the odd band CQing away.

Tree Tyree N6TR

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Last updated: 26 January 2006