One thing that adds to the unique nature of the WPX Contest is that single operator entries are limited to a maximum operating time. While there have always been a few operators who chaffed at the idea of having to get off the radio, most people seem to enjoy the ability to be competitive without the stress of going sleepless for two days! For many years the limit was 30 hours. Even though it has been 20 years since the limit was raised to 36 hours, we are still getting requests to return to the 30 hour limit. The survey seemed like a great opportunity to find out what the participants think.

Q7. Should the maximum operating time for the Single-Operator category be…

36 hours (no change) 1957 49.6%
48 hours (no limit) 925 23.4%
30 hours 577 14.6%
Don’t care 351 8.9%
Other 136 3.4%
Total 3946  

The clear winner was to stay with the current 36 hour operating time limit. Second choice, in a bit of a suprise to me, was to have no limit! 

Among those voting for Other, the most common suggestion was 24 hours. Other suggestions:

  • It would be great to have operating time categories, esp. for those who do not have the full weekend for the game
  • There should be 48 and 24 hour categories
  • 24 hours at any time in the 48 hour window.  Breaks must be 2 hr minimum
  • 24 hours in three times
  • Choice of either a 6-hour entry or a full 36 hour entry
  • 24 hours of 48 hours in 4 hour minimum QRV periods

There were many additional comments made for this question. Some of the more interesting include:

  • 36 hours is why old men like this contest so much.
  • I stopped entering competitively when this was changed. At 30 hours our distance disadvantage is partly neutralised. At 36 it is just another northern hemisphere test.
  • I’m not totally against leaving it at 36 hours, but as the ham radio population ages I think it would encourage more serious participation if the operating time was shorter rather than longer.  I’d rather see the emphasis on skill than endurance.
  • Us older ops need our sleep…
  • Look at the SARTG contest, that is split in 3 time slots. That is very fine for the ‘family’ operator.
  • This seems a reasonable maximum that doesn’t encourage people to go completely without sleep, but provides scope for those with stamina to do better.
  • 36 hours is a good balance between contest operating and home/family.  Most of us have to work on the Monday morning and need some rest!
  • The best operators in the world are probably over 60.  For people over 60 or 70, even 36 hours puts a physical and psychological stress that is hard to endure.  You could easily be the best CW op in the world, but not have the stamina for 48 straight hours. A contest should be a test of skill, not of unreasonable and youthful physical and psychological stamina.
  • WHY do you set a limit?  Everybody is responsible for his own health. I would like to operate full 48 hours without limits…
  • I liked it when WPX was only 30 hours. This meant a possibility to compete very seriously from the poor propagational area as Finland is. Now it is very difficult to compete because we very rarely have a decent propagation for 36 hours in Finland. With the existing operating time I don’t try to win anymore but try to operate for fun. If the operating time would be 30 hours I think that I would try more seriously and I would think that many people with families might also try a bit more seriously. The same situation is with the aging contesters.
  • There are plenty of contests with shorter operating time… if you’re serious and want to win, you’re sleep strategy should be part of your plan.
  • It’s fine as is.  Allows people to rest for 12 hours.  One of the things I like about WPX.
  • This is one of the major contest for the year – don’t change this rule or all the records will be in obsolete.
  • To allow very part time operators, please provide a 12 hour category.
  • More and more competitors are seniors who can no longer do 48 or 36 hours.
  • Diluting the contest for the ‘I can’t do it’ crowd is not fair to the people that can.
  • How about this – a half time category – so everyone that can only operate half the time of the contest compete against each other, those that can afford the full contest period compete against those
  • In a contest you should strive to have the maximum number of signals on the air at all times. Let there be as much fish in the pond as possible at all times so everyone has a chance to catch the maximum number of fish based on their skills.
  • It is nice to have a contest where I can get some sleep. Managing the ‘off time’ makes for interesting strategy.
  • Forcing the single op to decide where the off time(s) will come makes him consider propagation issues and rest planning, adding to the needed skill set for winning.
  • 36 hours is OK, but 48 hours would be much more interesting.  30 hours would be bad, creating large gaps in activity on Sunday like it used to many years ago, when most people had to use up their operating time real quick to avoid the ‘wasteland’ on Sunday.  If necessary, keep it as it is.
  • Divide contest into short 2-3 hr brackets and permit operation only during ‘x’ number of the time brackets. Keep point counts down and give low power, inexperienced operators a chance to get involved also! Some of us aren’t competitive; can’t affort big gun stations, and don’t have ‘x’ hours to sit through a contest to build up count totals. We might give a short block or two of time to get a certificate of attaining some set number of QSOs for the contest, just to get involved.
  • As I approach my 60th birthday I am appreciating 36 out of 48 in a contest!  But…you know what…there can never be too much contest time!
  • Like to see a best 12-hour, best 24-hr and/or best 6-hr categories for individuals who don’t have all weekend to operate.
  • I like the 36 hour format.  It allows for some sleep (as we get older, 48 hours is darn hard), but also involves some strategy as to *when* to take time off.  With 48 hours, that is lost.
  • Mixed opinions about this, do like the 36 hour format, but there are times when being able to work more would be nice. Too bad we can’t pick the best 36…
  • Why not introduce a single Casual contester for 10 HRS no limitation of time on and off so to bring more SMALL STATION TO STAY ALIVE in the contest.
  • Why allow multi-ops to operate the entire period and not single ops? Doesn’t make sense. If the contest is 48 hours long, then all stations should be able to operate for the entire period.
  • Have a 5 or 10 day long contest! That will take care of the lazy ones…and, will enable you to award the IRONMEN of our sport, eh?

This is only a small sample of the comments!  As you can see, there are many different views on this topic. It makes my job as contest director very interesting.

I am open to the idea of creating a limited time category. However, I don’t want to give people a reason not to be on the air and making contacts!  What do you think is the best solution?