Today is Friday, 2020-08-07
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This year was my first time participating in the RAC Canada Day contest on my own. It was a lot of fun and also very instructive. Here are a few things I learned.
First, everything you need to know about the RAC Canada Day or Winter Day contest is located on the RAC website.
During the contest, the following information must be logged for each station:
At the end of the contest, logs must be submitted to RAC. They will accept paper logs for submissions with less than 100 entries, but they really prefer electronic logs, which must be formatted as Cabrillo.
A Cabrillo file is really just plain text file formatted in a very specific way. For example, here’s a copy of my Cabrillo file (with only a few entries as example):
RAC does NOT want this information emailed to them in the body of the email. Instead, this should be saved in as plain text file named (in my case):
VA7FI.LOG and attached to the email.
Regular contesters use logging programs which can generate these files while providing features that facilitate the logging process during the contest. Many people have recommended N1MM as being the best one. RAC also has its own Microsoft Windows contest program for its own contests.
But since I’m not a regular contester and I didn’t have time to familiarize myself with a logging program that would run under GNU/Linux, I simply used a spreadsheet to log my entries and tweaked it as the day went on to add my points and check for duplicate stations. A few days after the contest was over, I cleaned up the spreadsheet and added some code to export the Cabrillo file the way RAC needs it.
Here are a few introductory videos I made to explain how to use the spreadsheet, which should also work with the RAC Winter Contest in December.
The first video shows where to download LibreOffice, and how to set the Security settings to allow LibreOffice to run macros:
Macro Security →
The second video shows how to use the spreadsheet during the contest, and how to export the Cabrillo file after.
The third video shows a bit of the hidden formulas and the script that generates the Cabrillo file. It’s like looking under the hood of the car: it’s not needed to drive it, and it doesn’t really explain how to build a car either. But some might find it interesting.
Here is the link to download it. It is:
Licensed under Creative Commons By-Sa so you are free to:
Provided that you:
Here’s a copy of the code that generates the Cabrillo file:
The other thing I learned during the contest is how to record a short message on my IC-7300 and play it back on the air so I could save my voice a bit. The details are on Section 7 of the IC-7300 full manual:
I ended up recording three messages:
To call CQ, I used the first message on a 7 second repeat loop. If someone answered, I could either press the button again to stop the loop, or use the PTT to jump in and acknowledge the station.
I used the second message to answer CQ calls during pile ups. All I’d have to do is press the button and hope I’d get an answer. This was great in the early morning when Justine was still in sleeping. With my headphones on, the whole thing was virtually silent.
I used the third message to give my exchange once I received the other station’s exchange.
I still had to use the mic a bit depending on the situation, but these pre-recorded messages took care of a lot of the grunt work.
I didn’t expect to enjoy contesting as much as I did. In fact, I found it strangely addictive. I think I’d be ok with participating to two or three contests a year, but I would never have the time to spend an entire day on the radio every weekend. Never-the-less, I’m looking forward to the next one.