The ever-popular ARRL November Sweepstakes (SS) weekends are upon us — one for CW and the other for SSB — and this year, participants will have to search out an additional Section. The CW event is November 7 – 9 (UTC), and the SSB event is November 20 – 22 (UTC). Each Sweepstakes leg begins at 2100 UTC on Saturday and runs through 0259 UTC on Monday. Stations may operate 24 of the available 30 hours. An SS Operating Guide package, available via the SS web page, explains how to participate in Sweepstakes. Clubs or public service teams that are considering participating in SS will find the guide to be a useful source for information. This year marks the 79th SS event, which attracts more than 3,000 entries each fall for both weekends.
The number of ARRL and Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) sections rose to 84 earlier this year with the addition of Prince Edward Island (PE) as a separate entity. The objective of SS — or “sweeps” — is to work as many stations in as many of the 84 sections as possible within 24 hours of operating. The number of sections worked is a score multiplier, and working all of them — a “clean sweep” in SS parlance — is the goal of many SS aficionados, who qualify for a clean sweep coffee mug. Hardcore SS operators try to run up the contact and multiplier counts by staying in the chair for the allowed 24 hours.
Some multipliers are rarer and/or harder to work, and these can vary from year to year. For many years, the most difficult SS multiplier was considered to be Northern Territories (NT) in Canada, where J. Allen, VY1JA, in Yukon Territory, was often the only station available. Allen has stepped back from amateur radio, however, owing to health issues. Making a clean sweep also requires working Alaska and Hawaii (or another station in the Pacific Section), as well as Newfoundland/Labrador (NL) and Prince Edward Island (PE) in the other direction. On the rarer side, finding — and working — stations in Alberta (AB), North Dakota (ND), Northern New York (NNY), US Virgin Islands (VI), Wyoming (WY), and Delaware (DE) has proven vexing for some SS operators.
Nonetheless, even stations with modest equipment and antennas can enjoy success. Many stations like to operate in the QRP category (output of 5 W or less), although that challenge has been more daunting in the lower rungs of the solar cycle.
ARRL November Sweepstakes is the oldest domestic radiosport event (the first was in 1930). The SS contest exchange has deep roots in message-handling protocol and replicates a radiogram preamble. In SS, stations exchange:
- A consecutive serial number (NR). Operators do not have to add leading zeros on contact numbers less than 100.
- Operating category — Q for Single Op QRP; A for Single Op, Low Power (up to 150 W output); B for Single Op, High Power (greater than 150 W output); U for Single Op, Unlimited, regardless of power; M for Multioperator, regardless of power, and S for School Club.
- Your call sign.
- Check (CK) — the last two digits of the year of first license for either operator or station.
- Section — ARRL/RAC Section.
The SS Operating Guide package, available for download, includes all rules and examples of log formatting. The deadline to submit CW entries is November 16. The deadline to submit phone entries is November 29.
Direct questions to the ARRL Contest Program.