A SOTA Challenge for 2020 and beyond

The SOTA “Flavours” Challenge 2020

January 1st-7th 2020: LF - 160m & 80m
February 1st-7th 2020: Datamodes
March 1st-7th 2020: Digital voice - C4FM / DSTAR / DMR
April 1st-7th 2020: LF - 160m & 80m
May 1st-7th 2020: Datamodes
June 1st-7th 2020: 12m, 10m & 6m
July 1st-7th 2020: 70cm
Aug 1st-7th 2020: 17m
Sept 1st-7th 2020: Datamodes
Oct 1st-7th 2020: Digital voice - C4FM / DSTAR / DMR
Nov 1st-7th 2020: LF - 160m & 80m
Dec 1st-7th 2020: 12m, 10m & 6m



Number of unique QSO partners worked multiplied by the number of unique summits activated.


Number of unique activators worked multiplied by the number of unique summits worked.

Only QSOs made on the nominated band or mode, on the dates specified, will count towards Challenge scores.

To take part in the “Flavours” Challenge, simply enter your activator and chaser logs into the SOTA Database as normal.

Background/further information:

We haven’t had a SOTA Challenge for several years. Like in the past we want to encourage use of parts of the spectrum, and operating modes that are generally less represented in SOTA, but keen to maximise participation by making the Challenge both diverse and inclusive.

The first seven days of each month will be “Challenge Days”. This guarantees that there is no bias towards weekday or weekend days, and also ensures that the majority of each month will see a more “normal” distribution of SOTA operating.

There may be one or two “Flavours” in the schedule that are not of interest or not available to individual participants. This “unique x unique” scoring algorithm will mean missing one or two “Flavours” out should not be hugely detrimental to your score in comparison to other participants. Nonetheless, the spirit of the Challenge is to encourage activators and chasers to try something new!

Towards the end of 2020, we will review the Challenge and determine the 12 “Flavours” for 2021. It is thought unlikely that any year would have exactly the same schedule of “Flavours” as the previous, but this schedule will always be decided and published in advance.



Interesing challenge, Tom.
Is the unique restriction per 7-day slot or for the whole year?

Across the whole year. Encourages wider promotion of SOTA and activations of lots of different summits. Though taking part in several of the different “Flavours” would certainly be effective in boosting your “Unique QSO partner” count. Radio amateurs tend to have their favourites, so you’d likely find different ones by doing different things!

What should be pointed out though, is that if you’d already worked someone, but not in the first seven days of a month, then they would score you a point if you then did work them on a Challenge day. Same with unique summits. Say you activated GW/SW-041 on 16th January, it obviously wouldn’t count towards your Challenge score, nor for instance if you activated it on 5th January, but on 2m FM. But if you then activated it again on 1st February on PSK31, it would then give you the Challenge multiplier, even though it wouldn’t be eligible for SOTA activator points for that 2nd activation.

Exactly the same principles as we had for the previous 10m/6m Challenge.

So with the first “flavour” being the LF - 160m & 80m - I’m starting to think about antennas. My SOTAbeams Bandhopper 4 will do nicely for 80m and has an adjustable bit that will keep the aerial resonant as I move between the CW, FT8 and SSB frequencies.

That “adjustable bit” takes the form of a crocodile clip at the end of each dipole leg. I guess another length of wire could be attached here (at both ends) to make a full half-wave dipole for 160m - but it would be a very long antenna, probably requiring a further two SOTA Poles to keep enough of it sufficiently AGL, and generally rather unwieldy.

So maybe loading coils is the way to go?

I definitely do want to activate on Topband though, as you get a different cohort of radio amateurs on there to 80m (and other bands), and therefore good for the “unique QSO partner” component of the score.

Hey Tom, would you include FreeDV as a HF digital voice mode (March 1st-7th, Oct 1st-7th)?

Not that I’m a proponent of that mode but I know some SOTAnauts are.

Bernard, VK2IB

Tom, would you please clarify if this is just your proposal for the 2020 challenge or this is an official announcement of the event. Thanks a lot, old man.

Yes it is and I’ve just added to Tom’s post to show it’s the official next challenge.

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Yes, I assume so.

Basically, the Database will pick up on all log entries that have the mode submitted as “DV” on the relevant dates for Challenge purposes.


I am trying out two systems. Firstly, according to the magazine article where I got the design, the W3EDP will work on top band with a very long counterpoise, so I am trying it with the counterpoise shortened with a loading coil. My second approach is a loading coil wound on 2cm plastic pipe which will slide part-way down my roach pole, with one wire slanting to the tuner and the other wire going to the top of the pole and then sloping away like an inverted V with a kink. It also occurs to me that the Sotabeams antenna trap kits would be a good basis for loading coils to be added to a link dipole.

I remember from my days as a SWL in the 1950s that top band was then the band of choice for mobile operation and though there was a 10 watt power limit people could work astonishing distances with bug-catcher style antennas, so bigger loaded wire antennas should give good results.

Surprised given another current thread that 2m SSB didn’t get a look in, there’s always next year I suppose :wink:

Well my week has 5 weekdays and two weekend days, so I’d say there’s definitely a preponderance of weekdays in each operating period… whether that translates into a bias in terms of opportunity to make contacts needs analysing by someone much better than me at manipulating the database!

Looks like a bit of fun anyway :slight_smile:

73 de Paul G4MD/G6GGP

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Hi Tom,

An interesting idea but it’s too UK season oriented. Our summer time is not the time to muck about on 160m nor is winter the time to be trying for a bit of distance on UHF.

I would of course take more notice if the post was accompanied by a picture of the MT, pots in hands struggling with pies on a plate.

BTW I do have a half wave 160 m SOTA dipole with 40 ft telescopic mast and a number of VK operators have top loaded verticals from our 160 m challenge a couple of years back.

My radio club has a QRPP challenge (not solely for SOTA ops) planned for next month. Expected sunspot count zero and a few 10 mW stations - there’s a challenge.



Maybe Northern Hemisphere rather than UK. But your point is noted.

The April slot corresponds to your autumn, is it too early in your season? Note that we put one 12, 10 and 6m slot in your summer Es season.

The operative word is “current”, this challenge has been under discussion for a couple of years, sometimes quite intense discussion!:wink:

My own opinion is that we need a full year-long challenge for 2m and 70cm, and FM does not need a challenge so I think that the challenge needs to exclude FM but allow SSB and data modes with a bonus such as doubling the score for 70cm. I emphasise that the preceding is just my opinion, the MT may well decide on something else entirely!

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There have been 733 activations on 2m SSB so far in 2019. That doesn’t strike me as particularly underrepresented or in the spirit of “try something new”.

The point about the days, is that each of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday are equally involved, so can’t possibility discriminate against any individual’s work pattern or personal circumstances.

The point is also that around this time next year, we will have data and discussion about how it’s gone so far. We will be discussing, both on the reflector and on MT, about what the schedule of “flavours” should be for 2021.

This first one will probably not be perfect - but it’s what we’ve come up with and we need to get it going and actually do it rather than continue endless discussion and debate in trying to find the ideal “menu”.

So we’ll go with this, and the experiences will inform how it is shaped in the future.

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In my personal opinion, this is far too “broad brush” - the previous annual challenges have been clear and concise, this appears to be TWELVE challenges rather than one.

These appear to be activity weeks, a principal that I have raised in the past as part of the S2S activities and was told that it would dilute down the activity and as a result would not work. It will be interesting to see if in fact this has the effect of diluting or in fact (as I suggested) increasing activity levels.

Some questions:

  1. why always the first week of the month - surely some variety on dates within the months would be better for those who have commitments in the first week?

  2. Have you checked which contests these dates may conflict with - the weekends will always conflict with contests but it’s worth avoiding the major ones. I realise several of the challenges avoid this problem by being in non-contest bands but for those that are, it would be good to make sure there’s not a clash with a major contest.

  3. What awards will be issued? Will these be on an association basis as with previous challenges or just overall?

  4. Already raised, but worth listing again, there appears to be a Northern Hemisphere loading to these dates - but if the awards are association by association, this is not so relevant as VK can challenge ZL on the HF bands and States within VK and ZL can challenge each other on the VHF/UHF bands.

  5. How about a microwave challenge? Probably too little interest outside of the UK - or am I wrong (again)?

  6. Can you add clarity under datamodes as to which modes you expect. Are these only digital datamodes or is e.g. RTTY also included? In the datamode challenges will the results/awards be split by band and association?

  7. Already raised but in order to be complete - FreeDV on all HF bands and even D-Star on 10metres - are they considered part of the March and October challenges along with the VHF/UHF DV modes or with the three datamodes challenges - even though it decodes to be voice, what is sent is data from an IT point of view.

  8. Will there be any power definitions - maximum power to be used, or separate awards based on power? Is that power ERP or PEP or rig output power?

  9. As datamodes have their own challenges, are they excluded from the other challenges? e.g. 160/80m 12/10/6m and 17m.

  10. Will there be an overall “Winner” across all challenges - or perhaps two - one chaser one activator, announced at the end of the year?

This sounds like a LOT of work!!

73 Ed.



In my experience the season usually starts in May though sometimes there are openings in April, and June is usually the best month for multi-hop events including transatlantic openings. However I remember one year when after a very busy May there were few openings in June before activity picked up again in July, so whatever we do we are at the mercy of conditions!

Since we already run a microwave award scheme it was felt that a microwave challenge was unnecessary.

What about the potential of automated qso’s on FT8 mode with the appropriate macros. Could you set up with a massive battery & camp with your rig in a tent, then look a couple of days later to see how many you’ve worked. I don’t know, but this looks possible and if so, makes a nonsense of the “challenge”.

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