The 2014 ARRL Centennial – A Reflection
2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the ARRL. To help celebrate this milestone, the ARRL announced two activities to be carried out throughout the year – W1AW operating portable in every state and several territories; and the Centennial Challenge, where points were accumulated for making on-air contacts with ARRL members, volunteers, staff, and officers.
The part that first caught my attention was the W1AW portable operations. As the ARRL was offering a special certificate (and optional plaque) for working all states during their portable operations, I almost immediately set my sights on obtaining that. Having recently completed 5 Band WAS, I knew that it is relatively easy to actually work the states, especially since they don’t have to be on a specific band. And since all W1AW contacts, including the portable operations would be uploaded to LoTW, I knew that confirmations wouldn’t be an issue. Since I anticipated that activity during a particular state’s week of operation would be high (and each state to be activated at least twice), this should be pretty easy.
With an unexpected hiccup at the beginning – West Virginia during their first week was not very active, and I only worked them once – I was a little nervous that this contact might not be confirmed. Turns out it was confirmed, and by early September, I had worked and confirmed all 50 states, plus working all of the activated territories. I’m looking forward to getting that certificate to hang on the “I Love Me” wall.
I had fun chasing and encouraging others to do so – GARA has several members who have also earned this award. And, even though I don’t get anything extra for it, I worked all the states “Triple-Play” – at least one QSO confirmed on Phone, CW and Digital.
I didn’t initially start chasing points in the Centennial Challenge, but I worked the North American QSO Party SSB and RTTY in January and February – and picked up some respectable points. I also heard others on the air calling “CQ Centennial”, and generating pretty significant activity levels. So, starting sometime in March, just for fun, I started doing this myself. Got some pretty fun pileups going – even though I was only worth 5 points as a registered instructor. Being diverse with mode selection and band choices allowed me to keep things a little “fresh”, and eliminated wearing out my welcome by parking on just one spot. I made a habit of getting on several times a week for a few hours at a time, calling “CQ Centennial”.
Several local hams started spotting high-point-value stations on our clubs Google Hangout, and this kept a little friendly competition and continual encouragement going. More than once, Jesse, K4AX and myself would park 1 KHz away from each other on RTTY, calling CQ, with the thought that TWO 5 point stations might attract a little more attention, and guys that worked one would probably work the other. I got a few nice surprises along the way, especially when Kay, N3KN, the ARRL President (worth 300 points) would call me when I was working contacts. I ended up working Kay on 12 band/mode slots for a total of 3600 points. There were a few VP’s (250 points) and Past Section Managers and Charter Life Members (100 points) that seemed to keep working me, and this was always a pleasant surprise to pick them up. Along with a whole lot of regular members, VE’s, Life Members, Card Checkers – and just about every other League appointment on up the chain. As I kept telling people when they’d say, “I’m only worth 1 point”….they all add up.
July and August brought the second yearly running of RTTY, CW and SSB versions of the North American QSO Party, all three of which I participated in. It was after the SSB running that I realized I was doing pretty well within our state – I was number 2! This spurred me to an even more regular operating schedule. I’d get home from work and work almost every night for usually around 2 hours, chasing spotted points and calling CQ. My philosophy was to catch the high-value stations where I could, and work as many “general” contacts as I could. I knew from experience that in any given CQing session there would often be a few high-value stations that would call me. My major in-state competition seems to have favored watching the cluster for high-value stations and working every one that was spotted.
I took the lead for most of the last part of the year, but my competition was always at my heels. For the first time, I participated in the ARRL November Sweepstakes, both Phone and CW – with an ulterior motive of picking up more points. This was a contest I had always shied away from due to the fact it has probably the most complex exchange of any of the big contests; both calls, a “Precedence” which is your entry class, serial number and a “Check” of the year you were first licensed. I ended up having a lot of fun, and even got a “Clean Sweep” by working all 83 ARRL/RAC sections during the Phone weekend (I missed a sweep by one section – Northern Territories – during the CW weekend).
Towards the end of the year, as the end was in sight, I observed that while activity levels were very high on-air behavior was not always at its best. Especially when high-value stations were on the air, the pileups would sometimes get downright ugly with quite a bit of rude and poor operating. While I haven’t generally shied away from a pileup, I found myself sometimes getting frustrated and “turning the knob” to move away from some of the bad behavior. If you were on HF during the last two months of the year you probably ran across some of this yourself.
Some of this behavior, along with getting a new radio, caused me to slow down my pace a little at the end of the year. On the final day, December 31st which was a “Red-Badge” day (ARRL appointees encouraged to get on the air and hand out points), my competition in-state ended up passing me. My final score (as of this writing) is 123,649 placing me second in North Carolina. There will probably be a slight uptick (probably very slight) when ARRL recalculates everyone’s score. I don’t anticipate any further change in my standings, my next-closest competition is 8000 points behind me, and I’m pretty sure everyone has uploaded all of their logs by now.
I did this with a 100 watt radio, a doublet for 80/40/30, and a 2 element Hex Beam on my roof for 20-10 meters. If you’re curious, go to the ARRL Centennial QSO Party page https://centennial-qp.arrl.org/index.php and take a look at the leader board. You’ll find me on the second page. I feel pretty good about where I ended up, and I had a great year on the radio.
Now…on to the next challenge!