Guru has explained the key issues facing the QRS activator very well.
I usually will QRS when activating, if I sense that a chaser needs a slower speed, or if I hear “QRS”. It’s usually quicker to QRS than to repeat an entire transmission. I usually start with increased spacing, but I’ll dial in a slower speed for the chasers who come back seriously slow.
If you activate often, and chasers learn that they can contact you reliably, there often is a pile of chasers to work through! If the weather is challenging, or time is limited for any reason, you may have trouble contacting all your chasers. Since most of us are chasers also, we see both sides of the coin.
The QRS activator needs all the help we can give! He’s often new to radio as well as challenged by CW. Perhaps there are challenges on the peak, wind, rain, etc., and it’s too hard to explain when sending slowly. When I wait in the pile to contact an activator, sometimes I hear a few other chasers sending at almost twice the speed that’s appropriate - and often QRO also. The bewildered activator can’t even get the chaser’s call, he must ask for repeats, and the pile is actually slowed down!
I agree that slower speeds work better through QSB, QRN, and QRM. I really like it when a weak station calls me QRS - even twice - so I can get him without repeats.
I think we just need to remember to be considerate and learn as we go. Sometimes lately I’ve had to do quicker activations because to the short days and limited time on the summits. I seem to have a huge number of loyal chasers - so I try to send short exchanges when the pile is deep.
What’s appropriate for a regular CW QSO may not be OK for SOTA.
Please activate at whatever speed you can go. Most of us chasers want to see more CW activations! Ask chasers to “PSE QRS” if they hit you with machine-gun CW. However, especially if you’re slow, remember that there might be 20 or 30 chasers out there wanting to contact you, so do what you can to make it move faster. This means un-learning some of the things that you were taught about regular CW QSO’s. If you’re QRS, use your time just to work the pile:
Call CQ with your call at the start, and continue your CQ until you get a bunch of chasers, but then don’t call CQ again, until you have no chasers.
Send your call occasionally - but not every contact - PLEASE! Sending your call often serves no one. 99% of your chasers already know your call.
Do send your SOTA REF at the start and very occasionally. However, if you’re got a pile, it’s because you’ve been spotted, so most of your chasers already know your call and your summit. If there’s a question about your REF or call, your chasers will ask “REF?” or “CALL?” or “CAL?” or just “??”.
Never send “YOUR RST IS 599” Just send “UR 599” or “5NN” for short. If you think you’re weak to the chaser, send your RST twice.
Never send “MY SOTA REF IS W0C/FR-031”. Just add it to your call:
“DE W9BRI ON W0C/FR-031” or something similar.
When the chaser has what he needs, finish up fast - send “TU 73” or similar, and move on.
When a QRS activator sends too much redundant or “friendly” information is that everyone’s problems increase. The activator gets tired and overwhelmed by the piles of chasers calling on top of each other. He may quit and leave the more patient chasers hanging, after some of them have waited a long time to make a contact. The chasers can’t believe that the activator is sending his call and maybe even his SOTA REF every contact, so they get more frustrated and may behave badly as they try to make the contact.
Even worse, the activator isn’t having as much fun as he should be - since he’s sending too much - so being burned-out, he may just activate one band, instead of 2 or 3, leaving over half of his waiting chasers out of the game, with no contact and no points.
If you’re a QRS CW activator, choose your frequency wisely. Avoid the QRP hot-spots like 10.110 and 14.060 MHz where all the newbies call CQ (on top of you). Many of them can’t hear you. Choose frequencies near where you see other activators’ spots. Listen to be sure the frequency is clear, and send “QRL?” before calling CQ. Avoid 40 and 20M during contests - or move up the band away from the QRM.
Try to post an ALERT well before your activation, if you possibly can. This will help your chasers prepare, but more important, if you post an ALERT on SOTAWatch, the RBN (Reverse Beacon Network) will automatically SPOT you within a minute after you call CQ and send your call - if you’re getting out OK. Call “CQ CQ DE W9BRI SOTA” once or twice. Once you have an RBN spot, you will have a pile! Usually there’s no need to self-spot, if you use an ALERT and let the RBN and the “RBN HOLE” create your spot on SOTAWatch.
Activating gets easier after a while, and CW improves the more you do it. Good things take time and patience.
Above all, be safe and have fun. Build carefully on your experience. We all want to hear your QRS CW signals from the peaks!