When contesters get together, there are always debates about the contest rules and categories.  No debate is more passionate than the one around use of DX Cluster by single operator entrants.  Some major contests, such as WAEDC and the Russian DX Contest, have decided to allow any single operator to use the Cluster.  CQ sponsored contests have maintained the traditional Single Operator category that does not allow use of Cluster or DX spotting tools. Any use of these places an entrant in the Single Operator Assisted category.

WPX scoring, with its emphasis on QSO rate and large numbers of multipliers, has historically shown very little scoring difference between the Single Operator (SO) and the Single Operator Assisted (SOA) categories. One of the goals of the survey was to gauge opinion on whether the WPX Contest should continue with two single operator categories or combine them into one.

Q3. Should the Single Operator and Single Operator Assisted categories be combined into one category that permits all single operator entrants to use QSO alerting assistance (e.g., DX cluster, Internet chat, etc.)?

  3. Should the SO and SOA categories be combined into one…
2. Which phrase best describes your operating…   Yes No Dont care Row Totals
A serious competitor trying to win 430 473 65 968
44.4% 48.9% 6.7% 24%
Part time operator trying for the highest score possible 562 731 166 1459
38.5% 50.1% 11.4% 36.2%
Chasing contacts for WPX or other awards 232 225 82 539
43.0% 41.7% 15.2% 13.4%
Having fun and giving points to others 355 370 183 908
39.1% 40.8% 20.15% 22.5%
Other 48 77 35 160
30% 48.1% 21.9% 4.0%
Total 1627 1876 531 4034
Percent 40.33% 46.5% 13.16% 100%

The results were relatively consistent across all competitive levels. Opinion is narrowly in favor of keeping SO and SOA as separate categories.

There were many excellent comments from both sides of the discussion.

Comments in favor of combining into one category

  • DX Cluster is ubiquitous today and CW skimmer technology will soon be as well. Their usage can’t be checked by contest committee.
  • It will stop the cheating which can not be enforced.
  • Time to do this
  • A rule that is not enforcible, like doping in other sports
  • Everyone benefits by spots, even those who are not using it do when they are spotted. Spotting creates activity and contests need activity to be interesting. Bring it on!
  • QSO alerting is now a normal part of operating
  • How to watch if really SO never looking cluster. We doing live with our “age of technology”.
  • I think, that many people uses DX-Cluster, but select Non-assisted category.
  • It is 2009, let’s use whatever is available to the amateur. After all, the operating technique in the pile-ups decides the score.
  • Yes, because today all the people have access to dxcluster and many send log unassisted, when in reality are assisted.
  • Partial calls checking in contest software, DXpedition`s previews, etc. are the same thing as cluster help.
  • If computer logging is allowed, the rest is just a natural extension.
  • Cluster permited for all but not self-spotting.
  • I figure its almost impossible to police the non use of assistance – if your interest is purely to increase activity – make it as simpleas you can for the everyone.

Comments against combining into one category

  • Internet infrastructure may not be available in remote area even in JA.
  • Absolutely not. I strongly oppose to chats where QSO’s are lined up telephone book style. _Watching_ a cluster is somewhat different, but still there should be a category that is all about radio skills, without assistance.
  • NO, NO NO. Many of us don’t haver reliable interenet service, or prefer not to use anything to put us in assisted. We prefer to do our contesting without others helping us.
  • I would stop entering the contest if there were no pure single op category.
  • No, no and one more no. I think that it’s no so good idea. DX clusters, etc. are OK for every day working when we have more time for experiments, but for Contest the Operator should be show his expirience and skils.
  • What to do with stations which realy doesn’t have have access to DX cluster.
  • It doesn’t seem right to use non-amateur means of communication for the purpose of increasing scores in amateur radio contests.
  • Absolutely not! There should be a seperate category for those not welded to the cluster network. Additionally I would like to see firm action taken by the contest committee (not just in wpx!) against those who enter as unassisted when in fact they are assisted.
  • Should always have a category for Single Op Unassisted. If you want fewer categories, better to combine assisted with Multi Single.
  • This year I entered SO. It was twice the fun to find mults myself. I’d like to keep these separate.
  • The contest should be a competition for the operator not for the electronics all over the world.

Those in favor seem to feel that cheating is pervasive and the only way to stop it is by putting everyone into one category.  This is disappointing to me and reflects one of the major concerns of radio sport. Those against a combined category point to the skill building and more fair competition that having seperate SO and SOA categories encourage.  Both sides make valid points. Given how even and intense the opinions are, we will continue with the separate SO and SOA categories for 2010. It is up to the contest community to apply peer pressure against those who use the Cluster and then enter in the SO category.

 Q4. If all Single Operators are combined into one category – should they be allowed to use frequency decoding technology such as Skimmer?

Just to see if there should be any limitation on the combined category, we asked one more question about Skimmer-type technology. Given the decision to continue with separate categories, this result is presented only for completeness.

The results below are ONLY for those who were in favor of combining the categories.

  Count Percent
Yes 701 44.3%
No 607 38.4%
Don’t care 274 17.3%
Total 1582 100%