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Ready, Steady, Go: It’s the IOTA Contest


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Geoff Watts, BRS-3129, was a british shortwave listener that founded the IOTA award program back in 1964. Since 1958, he was the first UK SWL that heard and confirmed all 40 CQ Zones, the first UK SWL that heard & confirmed 300 DXCC entities and for a long series of years, he was the top UK SWL. Geoff was inducted by CQ Hall of Fame award in 1977, one of the highest honours possible in amateur radio society. He was the first and remains the only SWL that has received this honour.

“Propagation conditions are poor, DX geting scarce, the possibility of brand new DXCC countries eventually becoming extremely remote, top DXers retiring as there is nothing new left to work”

Geoff Watts, BRS-3129, July 1964

During 60s, a lot of new DXCC countries were created or deleted, mainly because of political changes. Just to mention 9S4 Saar, 9U5 Rwanda-Urundi, C9 Manchuria, CN2 Tangier, CR8 Damao, FF French West Africa, FI8 French Indo China, FN8 French India, FQ8 French Equatorial Africa, JZ0 Netherlands New Guinea, PK1 Java, UN1 Karelo-Finish Republic, VQ6 British Somaliland, ZC5 British North Borneo etc. DXers were concentrated on DXCC award, hunting the new countries that were created. The political status is one of the main criteria for the existance of any DXCC entity. Geoff had already completed his DXCC achievments and was looking for something else. “Now that propagation conditions are poor, DX geting scarce, the possibility of brand new DXCC countries eventually becoming extremely remote, top DXers retitiring as there is nothing new left to work, it is proposed that an entirely new DX achievement be created, the Islands on the Air Award, to promote more activity among all DXers, many of whom could then go on a brand new island DXpedition themselves”. That was written by Geoff Watts 57 years earlier, in July 1964. How true it is also today.

Victoriya Island, EU-190

The idea of Geoff was simple. A practically endless award, that will never makes you feel bored or saturated. Geoff launched the IOTA award in 1964 with only 500 islands in the list, just 194 of them having a reference number as a result of previous amateur radio activity from the island. Geoff managed the award until 1985, when he asked RSGB to take over management on the award. Roger Ballister G3KMA is the award manager since 1985.

The first IOTA convention organized 30 years earlier, on May 1991, in Loano, Italy. The event was a very big success. A new IOTA directory was published with 1150 island groups, new revised award rules and the idea of organizing an IOTA contest was set. The success story of the first convention continued for the upcoming years, giving big publicity to the award program. The IOTA award is nowadays the 2nd most famous ham radio award program, after DXCC.

1st IOTA convention in Moano, Italy, May 1991. Left to right (sitting only): G3ZAY, G3KMA, G3GIQ, I1HYW, I2YDX, VE7IG & I2MQP. (Photo courtesy of VE7IG)

IOTA contest is organized since 1993 during the last weekend of July. You can find the current contest rules and results from previous contests in RSGB site. Every year many individuals or teams announce their plans for operations from various islands during the contest DX related sites like DXnews, DX-World.net & NG3K provide details, information and nice pics from these scheduled operations. Some of these islands are easy to be aproached by a local ferry coastal service, so a holiday-type is the most usual style of operation. Some others are isolated or far away from the closest land and need a lot of preparation and teamwork for this activity, like the scheduled DXpedition to Prince KArls Island, JW0W. A team of 5 fellow hams (EA3HSO, LB1QI, LB5GI, LA7GIA & LA8OM) shall be active as JW0W from Prince Karls Island, IOTA-063, during 21-26 July 2021. They will be active in 40, 30 & 20m bands. Check for their activity during afternoons.

RSGB contest committee has published an excellent guide specialy writen for the IOTA contest newcomers, that will help them to participate in the IOTA contest. So, never mind if you are a big gun or a small pistol, you can have a lot of fun during the contest, either as an islands chaser from your home, or as an operator from an island. Ready, steady, GO !!! It is the IOTA Contest this weekend.


July 2021 DX calendar (courtesy of DXNews)

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