delara news Delaware Amateur Radio Association, Delaware OH   VOL 37 NUMBER 6

Joe Fischer


Book Review: Contact Sport

Every four years, there is an Olympic-like event called the World Radiosport Team Championship.  The next one is coming up: July 12 to 16, in Wittenberg, Germany.  Over 70 two-person teams will set up nearly identical stations in the same area and compete head-to-head to see who can get the highest score over a 24-hour contest.  The score is based raw contacts with hams all over the world and multipliers based on distances to those hams.  Thus, we here in the colonies, will be valuable. The last WRTC, in 2014, was in the Boston and New England region.  Jim George, N3BB, wrote a book called Contact Sport to document the 2014 event.  Jim was the driver and spent most of his time at WRTC with two German contesters who set up with several teams in a large field about an hour’s drive south of Boston.  All of the teams were scattered around New England within a couple hundred-mile arc from Boston. Jim explained that although the organizers went to great pains to try make each site as equal to the others as possible, not every team was pleased.  These are the best contesters in the world and they notice things.  Things such as a slight hill in the direction of Europe, the area of the world with a lot of multipliers.  Just because one might be an elite contester, that does not exempt one from the various foibles of setting up a station in a remote location.  Things can get pretty anxious when European-standard ways of doing things are brought to the U.S. as the German team found out. A simple thing involving getting audio from the two German teammates to the referee almost scuttled the German’s participation in the 2014 event.  There was other drama documented as teams got lost getting to their locations, dissatisfaction with the location, equipment issues, regional feelings about how the contest rules should be, the stress of traveling from far-flung locations throughout the world, the stress of high- level competition for 24 straight hours and the stress of the final score judging. Jim goes through the anguish that the teams and organizers went through over a contact near Greece that could have the swung a team to a medal and whether the contact should count. Could you do one of these?  Jim talks about how neither German got up from his seat for 24 hours.  That means no restroom breaks.  Turns out, I met a young lady from Germany who was one of the other contestants and she and her teammate also forwent restroom breaks for over 24 hours. The winners of WRTC 2014 were two young Americans, neither of whom has reached his 40th birthday.  They started participating in WRTC events when they were in their 20s; meaning they were already considered among the best in the world at an age when most people are trying to figure out what their career is going to be. This book was written with a non-ham in mind.  Jim tries to explain what was going on in a way that people who have no idea what amateur radio is would understand.  There is a point where he tries to answer the question: why?  Why do something like this?  He might turn the question around and ask: why do people race sail boats?  Have not those been superseded generations ago? I would have liked to hear more about other teams; it was a little bit of shame that Jim was embedded with the German team that he was the driver of.  He did describe many of the teams to help learn who they were but there was not much talked about their operations.  Admittedly, and he pointed this out, once the contest started, there was not much to see or hear.  I also would have liked to learn more the competition that led to the selections of the teams.  I know generally how that works. Perhaps one of the most ironic part of the book is a few hours after the contest started and Jim was standing outside the tent of the German team.  He could hear some fans and typing going on but otherwise he would not have known that anybody was in the tent.  Amateur radio contesting can be that way. Very fun read.  With WRTC 2018 coming up, this is a very worthwhile book to go through. GL es 73 de Joe AA8TA dit dit