Is the ARRL Field Day a contest, or is it not a contest?
Kindly explain the reasoning behind your answer.
A non-ham could not tell the difference.
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Based on this affiliated club document, yes, Field Day is a contest.
Field Day is a competitive event sponsored by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). The objective is for participating individuals and organizations to:
Go to a location where there is normally no communications capability. Create one. Contact as many stations as possible during the operating period. Tear the site down, and pack it away for a real emergency.
The document goes on to discuss techniques for efficiently maximizing number of contacts by exchanging the minimum required information (call sign, station type, section) and "moving on." This document doesn't talk about scoring, but I've encountered many references to "bonus points" for this and that (for instance, if I were to operate for the club, my recent license would be worth extra points for each QSO; the visit we received from an ARRL official was, I was told, worth 100 bonus points).
If it's a competitive event, with scoring, it's a contest. No awards, no plaques, etc. just make it a "bragging rights" contest.
No, Field Day is not a contest, because stations do not submit logs for checking to validate the claimed scores. No plaques or other commemorations of competitive achievement are sponsored or awarded by ARRL, the sanctioning organization.
That does not stop participants from behaving as though Field Day is a contest. Inasmuch as a primary goal of the activity is to exercise hams' ability to communicate effectively under field conditions, the number of contacts made on various bands using various modes over a 24-hour period is a useful surrogate measurement of performance.
Experienced Field Day participants often develop specialized skills. These can include:
While many Field Day operations may fall into broad categories, no two Field Day operations are identical, depending as they must on the skills of the individuals that are available to participate in any given year. It is this dynamic nature of the challenge that keeps so many of us coming back year after year.