Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The ARRL Triple Play Award

Not long ago, the ARRL announced new award called the "Triple Play Award". The info at the link gives all the details, but the concept is simple: Work all 50 US states on CW, Phone, and Digital (RTTY, PSK, etc.) starting on January 1. All contacts must be confirmed via the ARRL Logbook of The World. To be honest, when I first heard this, my reaction was "well, that's nice, but I'm not that interested in working non-DX stations, and it'll take me forever to work that many stations on all those modes".

But that was before I wound up with over 400 contacts during the ARRL RTTY Roundup and more than 250 contacts in the CW North American QSO Party (NAQP) . I realized at that point that I'd had about 45 or so states confirmed on RTTY, and close to that many confirmed on CW. I picked up a few states on sideband during the SSB version of the NAQP, and realized that I actually had a pretty good number of the 150 required contacts already confirmed.

Andy, K3UK, set up a "sked" (schedule) page on his website (click "LoTW" at the top of the page) where hams trying to find different states could meet to arrange contacts easily, and there has been a decent group of folks there each day for the last couple of weeks. During the evening hours, 3.618Mhz (LSB) has been a kind of on-air meeting place. I started out by "lurking"; just reading the messages posted or listening to the chatter on-air and occasionally making a contact. The real fun started when, after I'd work some station that I needed I'd have another station call because they actually need a contact from New Jersey!

Ok, in case it's not obvious, New Jersey isn't exactly considered even remotely rare, or usually even very interesting, for the purposes of most ham radio awards. However, because the Triple Play Award (or TPA, as the guys on the sked page have been calling it) is so new, lots of folks still need a contact with New Jersey. While I haven't exactly been trying to work giant pileups, I have been "giving out" New Jersey to more and more folks. It's just plain fun to be able to help someone else earn their awards, and, while "hanging out", I've managed to pick up a few of the tougher states myself.

As I was writing this entry, I managed to work WY7FD on both RTTY and CW modes on 80m. As of now, that means that the only states with which I haven't made any contacts for TPA are Hawaii and Utah. I've worked both of those states in the past, so the trick now is to find a time and place to work a station who'll be uploading his log to Logbook of the World.

Speaking of Logbook of the World, because all contacts for this award have to be confirmed through LoTW, you get nearly instant (in relative terms) gratification when you work someone. Most of the folks trying to get the award upload their logs at least once per day (and some appear to do it even more often), so you usually know for certain that you're "in the log" very quickly. Don't get me wrong: I still like getting paper QSL cards, but for an award like this it's really fun just seeing how fast the contacts are confirmed.

One more quick thing: I have to say that it's been wonderful how friendly and accomodating folks have been in helping each other make contacts. Most folks will gladly change modes or bands to help out someone looking for a particular state. It's not that hams aren't friendly in general, but it just seems like my fellow TPA award seekers are really going out of their way to help out.

If you haven't done so yet, why not stop by the K3UK chat room and join a bunch of us on 3.618 each evening?

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