CW Contesting… with no CW Skills 16

M0NVS Operating using Machine Generated Morse

M0NVS Operating using Machine Generated Morse

Each year my local club (Chesham & District Amateur Radio Society) takes part in the RSGB AFS contest series. We like this series because it’s great for getting members involved in a wide range of bands and is quite a technical test to take part in each one. There’s contests for 160m, 80m, 40m, 6m, 2m and 70cm. That’s quite a range!

To enter a full team you need 4 members to take part, this is fine for all of the other contests but the CW 80/40m AFS contest posed a problem… we only had 3 CW ops who could take part! The non-CW literate amongst us rallied together to put a fourth station and the G3MDG club callsign on the air.

With no CW knowledge between us we put a station together that would solve that problem. We used N1MM+ logging software interfaced with Fldigi which provided the CW decoding and TX’ing. We hooked up the Yaesu 991 and braced ourselves for a steep learning curve! Here’s short video of us in action (beer was involved)…

We did surprisingly well in the contest, making 134 QSO’s across 5 DXCC on 80m, over the 4 hours. The setup worked well, the only exception being when we called CQ and had a pileup respond! Getting a decode when more than one people were calling, on the same frequency, was nearly impossible but eventually we’d catch a callsign fragment and go back to just that person.

This isn’t pure CW by any means, some purists may indeed call it cheating, but it did allow 4 of us who had no CW knowledge to learn a little about this mode… and we had a lot of fun doing it.

CDARS Operating in a CW Contest

CDARS Operating in a CW Contest

16 thoughts on “CW Contesting… with no CW Skills

  1. Reply Jim K9YC Jan 11,2017 20:28

    If experiences like this motivate a ham to learn CW, it’s a good thing. Your experience with trying to Run (call CQ) clearly show the limitations. CW is a fun operating mode, but it requires that you actually learn CW and develop skill at it to reach that level of enjoyment. Our contesting club in Nor Cal (W6) includes a dozen or so hams who passed their ham exams after CW requirement had been deleted, and who invested their time into learning CW. Most of them now actively contest at 20 – 30 WPM, and without the use of decoders.

    An international club of hams dedicated to CW operation offers free classes to hams who want to learn CW and to upgrade their skill level. The classes are held in three levels from beginner to advanced. I’m a founding member of this club.

    73, Jim K9YC

    • Reply James Stevens Jan 12,2017 09:34

      Thanks for the message Jim, the link is useful as well. CW has been on my to do list since getting licensed back in 2013 – trouble is it’s a big to do list!

      73, James M0JCQ

  2. Reply Hamfriend Jan 12,2017 18:28

    Well done my friend, cw is also on my to do list. In the mean time I am using cw decoder and I am quite satisfied. You ca have a look its free:


  3. Reply Robert - DL3RR Jan 13,2017 11:30

    Great stuff James. I am by no means an expert at CW and although I keep meaning to make a real effort to improve, I never seem to actually get around to it!

    • Reply James Stevens Jan 13,2017 14:20

      Like a lot of things in life you have to make time for what’s important to you. This is probably the reason I’ve not started learning CW yet, I have many other things to do first! Keep plugging away Robert!

  4. Reply Nick Garbett M1DDD Jan 13,2017 12:38

    Great stuff chaps. I am in the same boat (is I don’t read or send CW ‘by ear’) and use MixW or MRP40 but with less elaborate character recognition! Each contact tends to take me approx 1min. I was /P in 40/80AFS last weekend with a very low Windom and managed 62Qs. Just starting to get to grips with calling CQ and run for same reasons as you mention… Keep it up. It allows good contest fun, bonding and beers. Cheers, Nick M1DDD Derbyshire Peak District

    • Reply James Stevens Jan 13,2017 14:24

      Good to hear from you Nick. I remember working you (M1DDD/P) last week during the contest, we were on as G3MDG. Phil M0NVS was on the key and seemed to recognise your callsign, I suspect from some VHF contests.

      It was a good laugh, now just need to get ready for the SSB AFS contest tomorrow…

      73 James M0JCQ

  5. Reply M0HZT- Jenni Jan 16,2017 00:41

    Good work chaps..even though it is not – true cw..??

  6. Reply EA3HOE - Ton Aug 12,2017 09:51

    Awesome video! I always wanted to do that as well. Never bothered to get my station set up for CW contesting for non-CWers..

  7. Reply KD8GLK - Carl Jan 7,2018 23:46

    LOVE IT! Only want to do CW but suck at it! So glad others are doing this as well. This EXACTLY what I want to do. Did you patch your cords through your PC sound card or through a external sound card such as the K1EL or Signalink USB? .

    • Reply James Stevens Apr 3,2018 11:04

      Glad you enjoyed it Carl, we had fun setting it up and operating. We patched the cords through the sound card (from memory).

      73 James M0JCQ

  8. Reply Yoeri May 28,2019 04:31

    Hi, do you have more info on how to do this?
    Would be great for the upcoming contest over here.



  9. Reply G6PYF David Aug 10,2021 18:57

    Hi guys, great video and looks like you thoroughly enjoyed yourselves, which is what itโ€™s all about. Itโ€™s motivated me to take a look at doing this with my Yaesu FT991A. Time to get on the Wiki ๐Ÿ˜€

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