Here comes an editorial. You’ve been forewarned…
Let me cut right to the bone: there need to be fewer single operator categories in DX contests. Now, before you eviscerate me, please allow me to explain that statement. For the sake of conversation, we’ll talk about CQ World Wide, since it seems to have the highest participation. On the current books, we’ve got Single Op High, Low, QRP; Single Op Assisted High, Low, QRP; classic and rookie overlays; and single band divisions.
You can see why the multitude of categories exist: we want people to operate and they’ll probably only operate if they feel they can be reasonably competitive. Some contests even go so far as to offer “tribander-and-wires” overlays — perhaps a response to the plague of HOA’s and covenants sweeping the planet.
But we’ve created a false binary where if someone can’t be competitive, they won’t bother operating. We need to remind ourselves that the sentence should be (and used to be) longer than that. It really should read: if someone can’t be competitive, they won’t bother operating from home.
These operators who cannot win from home, or are not interested in building winning stations, can still participate! There are many multi-ops scattered about (especially here and New England) but there certainly aren’t enough. The number of multi-ops has sat stagnant in recent years, with the big three and a wide valley until the “garage band multi-ops.” This valley exists because we’ve been incentivizing single operators but ignoring smaller multi-ops.
Think about your local club level. For every one person with a decent station there are five or six members (maybe more) with a peanut whistle station. It’s relatively easy to bring these operators into one room and let them compete from a workable station. The problem is that, in most contests, as soon as they do this they must compete with W3LPL, K3LR, and the like. Even the loudest of the loudest local guys probably are not setup to do this.
Paring off multi/2 and multi/single seems to help some. But it’s only recently we’ve added low power options to these categories; as most of us know, building a multi/2 is pretty easy until we introduce high power.
So what do I propose? Let’s get rid of the ridiculous multitude of single operator categories. Heck, let’s get rid of the assisted classification and just lump everyone together (scores show operating unassisted is hardly an impediment to winning). Split things up only by power: Single Operator High, Low, and QRP.
Then let’s take the multi-op categories and apply power rules. So we’ll have: Multi/Multi High, Low, QRP; Multi/2 High, Low, QRP; and Multi/Single High Low, QRP. Now the majority of us with at least one tower and wires can realistically host at least a Multi/Single (probably a Multi/2 with $500 worth of filters). Can’t compete from home? No problem — come on over and join the team.
The end result will be more contesters, better operators, and stronger active clubs.
Photo above: WPX SSB @K1TTT circa 2003. L-to-R NX1X (40m), N1TA (20m), KB1GHC (160m)