Is ARRL Field Day a contest?

Despite Betteridge’s Law, the answer is “yes and no”. ARRL Field Day is designed to offer different things to participants and the public. It’s a floor wax and a dessert topping!

PAARA Field Day 2017

It’s not a contest!

For PR and marketing purposes, “no, it is not a contest”. The public face of Field Day is exactly what the ARRL says it is, “to demonstrate ham radio’s science, skill and service to our communities and our nation. It combines public service, emergency preparedness, community outreach, and technical skills all in a single event.” The emphasis on press releases and social media is to get maximum publicity for the event. There is an official PR strategy for participants to get the word out including a sample press release with the messaging “Skill, Service, Science”. There are 700 bonus points just for publicity.

It’s a contest!

For the “yes, it is a contest” answer, there is clearly a contest as part of the event, complete with scoring and winners. But it is worth noting that a participant can score 1250 points without making a single contact. That 1250 points would put the station in the top half of the 2A division scores. Don’t believe it? Scroll to the bottom for the scoring details.

Field day 2018

Max No-QSO Score

How do you get so many points with out a QSO? Set up a two-transmitter station, plus GOTA (Get On The Air) station, then start counting. A twenty-transmitter station could score 3050 points with no QSOs, but that isn’t realistic. A couple of single-band antennas is pretty straightforward. Switch one of them to the GOTA station as needed. This calculation is from the ARRL Field Day 2020 Rules.

200 for two 100% emergency power stations
100 for GOTA station
100 for media publicity
100 for public location
100 for public information table
100 for copying ARRL Field Day bulletin
100 for educational activity
100 for visit by elected official
100 for visit by agency official
100 for social media publicity
100 for safety officer
50 for web submission of scores

With five or more contacts, the score could be substantially higher, with bonuses for alternate power, GOTA contacts, message passing, and youth participation.


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