10 GHz roving - Rover Buddy 1.1
K6TU - ARRL Sweepstakes 2014

Why "Unlimited" is boring...


noun \ˈkän-ˌtest\

: an event in which people try to win by doing something better than others

: a struggle or effort to win or get something

Love it or hate it, ARRL Sweepstakes (SS) is less than a month away...  For serious Contest Clubs, SS is a "must" event as it is one of the ARRL Affiliated Club Gavel contests.

The rules of the Club Gavel Competition provide for three different categories that clubs may enter:

  • Local (10 entries or less, 35 mile diameter club territory)
  • Medium (50 entries or less, 175 mile diameter club territory)
  • Unlimited (> 50 entries, 175 mile diameter club territory)

For SS, an entry is defined as a log submitted for EITHER the CW weekend OR the PHONE weekend.  That's right... if you operate in BOTH weekends and submit your logs from both events, you have made TWO entries.

If you are a small or medium category club (and you don't have exactly 5 or 25 members!) there is a serious element of skill and commitment to be applied if you want to win.  It's in the club's best interest to pick the members who have the best skills and can make an all out effort in EACH event.

In other words, pick those members who have the best CW skills for the CW event and have the commitment to make an all out effort.  THEN, do the same for the PHONE event. 

But, if you are a large club and you want to enter the Unlimited category, you need to have lots of people show up.  It's not about skill or commitment, the Unlimited category Gavel's are like Pony Club participation ribbons - you get one for showing up and taking part.

For sure, all out commitments by great operators from well equipped stations help, but the real stars of the Unlimited category competition are all the little pistols who get on, make whatever contacts they can and then remember to submit their log!

No skill, no commitment - just show up and then send in your log.

Ironically, the really big contest clubs see this as a serious mano a mano contest and encourage their members to participate.  Some even go as far as offering special awards (plaques, coffee mugs...) for acheving a specific number of QSO's - often as few as 100 to 200.  Other's offer a tee-shirt or a baseball cap for their logs.  Since the Gavel rules require a member to "be in good standing", the larger contest clubs generally don't require annual membership dues so that doesn't deter folks from sending in their logs.

In the end, if you want to win the Unlimited Category Gavel, its all a matter of size...

The club with the most members who show up and submit their logs, wins.


At least for me as a competitive contester, the real thrill of SS lies in the Local and Medium categories.

SKILL & COMMITMENT - that's what drives me as a contester and provides the challenge, motivation and fun to try to do better!