The old question, contest or ragchew?

It has been a question repeated again and again in the ham radio which is superior or dominant, contesting or ragchewing. I have read through that sort of discussions in the recenet CWops reflector. The contesters always insist that there are different ways of enjoyment in ham radio. Enjoy each aspect of ham radio for yourself, as their slogan says. They are always active and sound like the majority in the club.
It seems that their saying is right from the point of view of the general ham radio operation. No difference between the way of enjoyment in ham radio. Even chance to use the bands for contesters as well as ragchewers.

I should say it is not right or fair. In reality, a lot of weekends especially in fall and spring are occupied by contests. During contests, the conventional bands are not usable for ragchewers. When ragchew oriented hams find the bands messed by number or unknown ciphers exchanging stations, all they could do is just to turn off the radio and to leave the shack in disappointment. What a loss for them to give up the good conditions in those seasons! The relationship between contesters and agchewers could never be that of win win type. But they exclude each other in a sense. The ragchewers are always defeated by the contesters.

Since I have been watching the bands for decades, I know most contesters won't go on their activities for over a decade or so. If they are interested in only contesting, it seems to me, they are destined to quit it in several years. On the other hand, raghewers are always long living on the air. I often enjoy reunion on the air with old friends after decades of absence.  They are always good ragchewers. This fact may mean ragchewing is essential to ham radio activity and keeps us enjoying ham radio long time.

In conclusion, ragchewing and contresting are exclusive each other. We should consider which weighs more to us in our long ham radio lives.


  1. I like what Shin has to say but am not sure he is entirely correct. Contest enthusiasm can come and go, but so can interest in ragchewing. Sometimes one feels like contesting, sometimes ragchewing -- and sometimes neither. The last of these choices appears to represent the current danger to the future of CW. That is why tolerance for any CW activity is so important. There is no room for criticism that leads to feelings of exclusion. Moreover, even during contests there is usually some spectrum above the fray that allows for ragchewing, not to mention the availability of the WARC bands at all times. Given contests are only weekends, 5/7ths of the time the bands are fully available for ragchewing. Rarely are bands totally crowded with contesters, and even then there is generally space above the majority of participants. That flexibility in approach, i.e., being willing to make room for others with different interests, seems to me an appropriate way to accommodate most operators who have an interest in CW. The real question is why there is not more ragchewing outside of contest periods. The reason is largely one of alternative media for communication these days, like email. Indeed, this very blog might have been an on-air series of chats among ragchewers pre-Internet. On a related issue, some claim that radio conditions are too poor these days for reliable chatting. Nonsense. Conditions are sufficiently good to make contacts to many places, as dxpeditions prove time and time again. In sum, contesters are, much like DX hunters, the equivalent of sportsmen - they are there for the challenge and satisfaction of competition -- but there is room for ragchewers even it requires a little flexibility of approach. What we all need is to spend more time on the air and less on email and watching television! The art of conversation and the pleasures it can bring are worthy of our return to ragchewing, contest weekends notwithstanding.

    Jim, N3JT

  2. Jim,

    Thanks for the very 1st ever comment to this blog.

    I fully understand you in every respect. As an all around player, you say the truth. We should enjoy every aspect of CW. Admitting that, I would be on the side of pure ragchewers, whose thoughts or ideas could hardly be expressed in the public space like CWops reflector.

    As a matter of fact, I am afraid, there is a definite exclusiveness between contesters and ragchewers. Moving to WARC bands during contests is not realistic. Some don't have antennas for WARC like myself while the other ragchewers are not interested in those bands.

    They may feel forced to evacuate to those bands during contests. It is the contesters who exclude the others in this situation. It may be difficult for them to understand the others who are excluded by them.

    The ragchewers could endure the mess of contests if it is only few times in a year. But there are so many contests being held, either domestic or not.

    The general activity issue is another point different from this exclusiveness problem, in my view.

    The point may be if the contesters could be aware of excluding the other's enjoyment or activities by themselves. It depends on the contesters if this issue could be solved or not.

  3. Shin,

    I will have to agree with you on being a big difference between contesters and ragchewers. Most of the contesters are just that, In checking RBN and 46 yrs of operating CW only, I find that I rarely hear a contester that is interested in ragchewing too. Unless I missed the boat some where. They like to say they do:)

    I have enjoyed DXing, ragchewing, and contesting during the past 46 yrs. I have many certificates and can contest with the best of them. But the gratification of contesting was not there for me.

    To me the CWops club is a contesting club. PERIOD. Yes they like to say they are a diverse club of just fostering CW in general, but i must disagree. The vast majority of the members either are not interested in ragchewing or either can not do it as is apparent by the lack of ragchewing by there members. I joined CWops to help promote CW , but I dont understand how another contest can help to promote amateur radio. I also disagree with Jim that there is plenty of room for ragchewing during weekends where there is a constant contests going on.

    When i joined CWops i was excited, but was quickly dismayed by the changing of rules or the lack of my understanding. I nominated 2 Asian stations to the CWops club. The rules of the club state: That you need to communicate in English at a speed of 25 wpm. Then I read by the founders that all you need is 2 quick QSO's with the same station during one of there many contest to qualify for membership. I do not understand how 2 contest QSO's determine that you can speak English and carry on a QSO at a speed of 25 wpm. It is not hard to find a station on the DX clusters or RBN and simply hit a key to log and send a report.

    I believe the FISTS and FOC clubs have much more to offer to new hams that are interested in CW, and it is apparent by the numbers that are members of both clubs.

    Lastly it is my experience that the CWops club is highly censored by many of the founders. I found this out when Jim N3JT decided not to let me voice my opinion on many of the thoughts i voiced here in your blog. The CWops have been around now for over 1 year, When the membership dues where up for another year there were many who did not pay them for the second year. Yes I see the CWops club as just another contesting club, I have lost interest in the club and will not nominate another operator. Most of the decent CWops that are left on the bands will not join the club. As they say, I do not want to join a contesting club

    Just my opinion -

    Steve N6TT

  4. Hi Shin,

    I just discovered you English blog, and I forwarded your recent post on the nuclear situation to some friends (not hams) who feel that the international press has turned their backs on the situation and are not reporting the crisis. This is due to the short attention-span of the modern world citizen who enjoys only quick blasts of sensational news. There are only a handful of newspapers which continue to report the crisis, The Economist being one, but these journals are only read by 1% of the population.

    My views on ragchewing are probably known to you and Steve already. I joined CW Ops as a life-member and now wonder if I can get my $100 dollars refunded. Last week was the Wednesday CWT and I worked a couple of US big-gun CW Ops in a typical contest-style exchange and hung around until the end of the contest for the much-vaunted ragchew sessions to begin. The big guns all fell silent. It is frustrating for a ragchewer like me who is keen to improve his QRQ and high-speed copying skills. It seems I spend hours in the shack listening for ragchew openings and feeling only disappointment. It is operating practice I need. In 9V the situation is very difficult because the openings to USA are very few but when the bands are open, all you hear is DX-ing and contests.

    Last night I heard our friend Nao J03HPM calling a lonely CQ on 30m and answered him. We had a very good long chat at his slow speed but it was the best QSO I had had in many weeks. We just enjoyed the pleasure of using hand-sent CW to exchange what are really commonplace messages about family, holidays and the weather, but the pleasure is in the skill, not the content of the exchanges. I don't know what the future holds for us old ragchewers but I won't give up and will keep trying to engage operators in conversation, even though I usually get negative responses.

    On another subject, good luck with your retirement plans. I am envious. It will be several years before I will find my self in the same fortunate situation. I am the oldest person on my ship and the young guys call me Grand Dad !
    john 9 V 1 V V

  5. Hi John,

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment to my post.

    The post CWT ragchewing is not very fruitful so far. I have had only a QSO with Rob K6RB for the past several sessions. It must be a disappointment for you to have those big guns go away as if the tide were on the ebb. When I operated from Cambodia, I knew, the US etc were real DX especially on the lower bands.

    I have spent the week end in a hot spa area in JA7. I got home in the afternoon on Sunday. I was surprised to know how less JA contesters were joining this big event last week end. It was unlikely that the bands were skipping JAs here but there was a substantial decrease in the number of participants here. No wonder the average ham age might be around or a little bit above 60 years here. The contesting won't attract the young generation so much that this decrease might be inevitable.

    Let's keep our activity, John. We are still in the minority. But there are surely some people who enjoy comuunicating with this simple artistic mode.

    Retirement is a hard event for me. I should make much effort to go through. The future does not seem to be promising to retiree so much. But I believe it is the time for to go ahead. Hopefully, more time for radio, music and farming etc.

    I believe you are leaving home in a week. I hope the ocean won't be that rough like the last voyage. Catching you again soon. Take care.