Secrets of RTTY Sprinting

The Secrets of RTTY Sprinting by Ken, N6RO

My following comments are from the perspective of a SERIOUS CONTESTER for 62 years, 44 years as a sprinter on CW and SSB. I got into RTTY contesting three years ago, and  I am not an expert in the technical aspects of RTTY, MMTTY, 2TONE, N1MM, WRITELOG, etc..  But, with coaching from experts, I have learned to use what I can handle, and PRACTICE all I can. Sprinting is a different cat in contesting.  In the sprint, forget the other conventions you may use in either casual RTTY or other RTTY contests.

In the interest of helping you be more efficient and successful in this contest, here are some observations and recommendations:


The predominant ‘problem’ I encountered in the sprint last Saturday, was stations sending their call at the wrong time:

Situation 1:  You have called CQ and you complete a QSO.  Your message should end with only your QTH (state, province, NA country).  If you send your call, that will trigger experienced contesters to call you, when you are required to vacate the frequency  (QSY), per sprint rules.  If you send the call of the station you just worked, you will trigger calls to that station.  Chaos happens in either event.  The only time you send your call at the end of an exchange is when you inherit the frequency after responding to someone who CQ’d.See sample sequences down the page.

Situation 2:  You have logged a station and have ‘inherited’ the frequency.  You placed your callsign at the end of the exchange, and received a TU from the guy vacating the freq.  If no one calls you then, you are entitled to CQ.  Hopefully someone will respond and you get what we call a ‘Couplet” of QSOs. (two for the price of one). When you complete this second QSO, you must now QSY to another freq. to CQ, or tune for stations to call and get another couplet.

Contest exchanges are meant to be efficient, with no un-needed nor un-wanted information.
DO NOT send: “Thank you xxxxx for the QSO”,  599 – not required by the contest, PSE COPY….., PSE K, DE (your call). Most contesters would think you are in Delaware – OMIT “DE”…. Save your courtesy or friendly chat for casual or non-contest QSOs.

If you do not get a full exchange from a station the first time you think you got him, do not hesitate to call him again later. Experienced contesters know that logging a station a second time will most likely validate an earlier  QSO and prevent NOT-IN LOG penalty.
I called an active contester (with an AA7 prefix) about a dozen times because he was not in my log.  He evidently thought he had logged me before (NOT).  If he submits his log with a QSO with me, he will loose the QSO, and incur a penalty. You DO NOT KNOW WHY  the other station attempts or refuses to dupe. Bottom line? LOG ALL DUPES!!!!! This applies to CW and SSB contesting also.


Sprint format suggests (not by rule, but efficient flow) that exchanges be sent in different sequence.  Most logging programs allow you to set up macros for the two modes using the keyboard function keys:  CQ (running),  and S&P (Search and pounce).

Assuming you already are using a logging program which will send MACRO messages,  below is a suggested sequence of QSOs: (If you are not using a logger in contests, please get one. I use N1MM, as it is closely integrated with MMTTY and other decoders, as are WRITELOG and maybe other loggers.)

N6RO sends: CQ N6RO N6RO NA
W0YK sends: W0YK
N6RO sends: W0YK N6RO 123 KEN CA
W0YK sends: N6RO 582 ED CA W0YK
N6RO sends: TU
(N6RO must now QSY)
W6OAT sends: W6OAT
W0YK sends: W6OAT W0YK 583 ED CA
W6OAT sends: W0YK 115 RUSTY CA W6OAT
W0YK sends: TU
(W0YK must now QSY)

Several logging programs automate the sequence of exchanges, and transfer exchange info received to the logging window, using mouse clicks. If you are using N1MM, I would be glad to send you my F-key macros.  I’m sure W0YK would share his WRITELOG macros with you – just ask! A top scorer in any contest is usually willing to share his SECRETS with you.  Why?  Because it may increase HIS SCORE and YOURS!

Other tips:
Put a space before and at the end of each macro message to separate it from the noise prints. Use ‘leading zeros’ in your QSO number, so it is easier to click on with the mouse.  (NEVER use leading zeros on CW)

SO2R:  (single operator, two radios)
If you wondered why some stations are sending very large QSO numbers, they are probably
using SO2R.  While copying an exchange on one band, they are CQing or S&Ping
on another.  This increases scores by 10 to 40%, depending on the contest rules and activity in a given contest. Details on SO2R would be the subject of another discussion.  First, let’s work on the basics of Sprint.

Like any other activity you would like to become proficient in, sprinting requires PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. For this purpose, NCCC (Northern California Contest Club) sponsors a weekly practice session. We invite you to practice the sprint format on Thursday evenings in North America, 0200-0225Z Friday, on 15, 20, 40, 80m, the usual 80-90 khz up from bottom of band. We use the Sprint message format, but the rules/scoring is different:  mults count on each band, 100 watts max. Most loggers have formats for the NCCC Sprints, esp. N1MM.

I have just scratched the surface of this most challenging art-form in radio contesting.
Please give me your feedback, recommendations for helping others to learn how to SPRINT.

Thanks for reading my long-winded rant.  I suspect that I am “preaching to the choir”,
as most of the guys who I’m trying to address, do not subscribe to any reflector discussing contesting. Please pass the word to those who might listen.