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Frequently Asked Questions

RAC Challenge 2021 logo


Radio Amateurs of Canada is pleased to present the Canadian Portable Operations Challenge Award for RAC members.  The objective of the new “RAC Challenge Award” is to recognize and encourage portable operations by RAC members from locations throughout Canada. 

The following Q&A provides an overview of the program:

Q: Are there any awards for chasers?

A: No, there are no awards or recognition for chasers. This award program celebrates the activators. The awards programs that the RAC Challenge uses all have their own means to recognize the people who try to contact the activators of parks, grid squares, SOTA summits, IOTA islands, lighthouses, provinces and territories. We hope chasers will be inspired to get out of the shack and do some of their own portable operations.

Q: Can I submit my log to both the RAC Challenge and to my preferred program (POTA, SOTA, VUCC and whatever contests I participate in)?

A: Yes, this is exactly what we hope you will do. We want the RAC Challenge to encourage participation in all these programs. This is not intended to compete with any other program. It is intended to recognize all the flavours and varieties of portable operating. The RAC Challenge does not want your log. We really just want the total numbers of contacts you made and the locations from which you operated.

Q: Isn’t a one-QSO minimum too low for a valid operation?

A: This allows us to recognize even marginally-successful portable operations. In the out-of-doors, things can go wrong, including the weather and other natural dangers. The effort involved in a portable operation is significant. Some of the parallel programs, like SOTA, have higher minimum contact numbers for an operation to qualify as an“activation”. That’s fine for their program. We want to recognize a noble effort, even if it doesn’t work out to plan.

Q: I will operate with different call signs in different locations. How do I make sure all my various operations will count for my combined score?

A: Choose one call sign as your “default.” For example, my principal call sign is VE9CB. In the “My call sign” part of the form, I will always use VE9CB.

  • If I go to Québec for an activation, I will operate as VE9CB/2
  • If I go to Labrador, I will operate as VO2AAA, another call sign I hold
  • If I operate as a “rover” in a VHF contest, I will sign “VE9CB/R”

In the “Call Sign Used” part of the form, I will enter “VE9CB/2” for my operations from Québec and “VO2AAA” (one of my other call signs) for my operations from Labrador, and “VE9CB/R” for my rover operation in the VHF contest.

If you are part of a multi-operator effort in a contest, Field Day or a DXpedition, enter that operation’s call sign in the “Call Sign Used” part of the form, and enter your chosen “default” call sign in the “My call sign” part of the form.

Q: Can I count my portable operations outside Canada?

A: No. The RAC Challenge is all about portable operations from locations within Canada. Foreign Amateurs are very welcome to participate and submit reports for their portable operations while visiting Canada.

Q: Why do you use IOTA islands and not the Canadian Islands Activators (CIsA) list?

A: The organizer of CIsA specifically requested that CIsA be excluded from this program.

Q: I am most interested in one particular program, but I would like to find locations in the other programs that I can activate. Where do I find information on those other locations?

A: For Parks, see the Parks On The Air (POTA) website.

  • To find your Maidenhead Grid Locator, there are many resources: some GPS devices show “Maindenhead” references. Numerous smartphone apps do as well. “Maidenhead” is an excellent, free app. There several good online mapping resources: please see and zoom in to your operating location. Remember, it is the first four characters of you location’s grid locator that count. If your location is at locator FN25dg, it is only the FN25 part that we count for the challenge.
  • For Summits On The Air (SOTA), search the SOTA website at . There are identified summits in each call area except VE8 and VY0.
  • For Islands On The Air (IOTA), search the IOTA website at:
  • For lighthouses, search the Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society page at: 
  • I think you can easily figure out in which province or territory you are.

Q: Can I activate more than one “location” at the same time?

A: Yes, that is exactly what we hope you will do. The way the “multipliers” are set up, every location from which you operate counts for at least two “locations”: one province or territory and one grid locator. It you set up at a place that is also a lighthouse on the ARLHS list, that gives you one more multiplier towards your monthly total. If that same location is also a park on the POTA list, there is another. Be creative and explore all the possibilities.

Q: What about “grid line” operations?

A: Many VHF+ and satellite operators set up on the exact line where two grids meet or where four grids intersect. You can claim double or quadruple multiplier credit for activating two or four grids while sitting on a “grid line.” This can be a very challenging orienteering task: accessible, safe locations right on a grid boundary are hard to find.

Q: Can I activate more than one “location” in the same day?

A: Yes. If you rove from one spot to another, please put in a report from each of those locations.

Q: I will be a “rover” in a VHF contest, operating from several grids over two days. Can I submit my totals for the challenge?

A: Yes, please do. When filling in the form reporting your activity, make sure to give yourself credit for all of the grids from which you operated during the contest, to make sure you get the maximum multiplier. You could even submit one report listing all the grids from which you operated.

Q: I will be on holiday for two weeks and I will bring my equipment along to pass the time. Is this kind of operation included in the RAC Challenge?

A: Yes, it is. So long as the operation takes place away from your home, and the equipment and antennas are brought to the site for the purpose of operating “portable,” then we want you to join in. If there are permanently-installed antennas at the site, well, that doesn’t really meet the spirit of “portable” operating. Don’t make us write too many restrictive rules. Please keep in the spirit of what we are promoting.

Q: I am part of a DXpedition team going to Sable Island. Can my participation in the DXpedition also count for the RAC Challenge?

A: Yes, it can. You can only claim an equal share of the total contacts made by the DXpedition, so if there are five operators and you make 20,000 contacts during your expedition, you can claim 20,000 ÷ 5 = 4,000 contacts.

Sable Island is an interesting case: You can claim one multiplier for activating CYØ, another for the grid locator (FN93, GN03 or GN04, depending on your exact location), another for the Sable Island National Park Reserve (POTA VE-0120), another for IOTA NA-063, another for ARLHS Lighthouse SAB-001 or SAB-002, if you are close enough to either light.

Sable Island is too flat to have a SOTA summit, but five multipliers is a nice reward for a very arduous operation.

Q: I am planning to set up and operate from a lighthouse on an IOTA island during the IOTA contest. Can I submit my log to the contest organizers and claim a score for the RAC Challenge?

A: Yes, that is exactly what we want.

Q: What about the different points for contacts made with different power sources?

A: If you go someplace and use the regular local public AC supply, each QSO is worth one point.

If you make some or all of your contacts from a generator or battery supply that you bring to the site, those contacts have twice the value to recognize the additional effort you put in.

If your source of power was “green,” such as batteries charged from solar or wind generators, or some other form of purely independent and non-polluting power that you brought to the site, then each QSO is worth four points.

The idea is that we recognize the extra effort you put into make your operation independent or green. Please don’t make us write too many rules to detail exactly what “independent” or “green” means. I think you understand the spirit of the idea.

Q: What about 10 points for QSOs above 902 MHz?

A: Any contacts you make on the 33 cm band (902-928 MHz) or higher in spectrum are worth 10 points each, regardless of your power source. Portable operations involving the microwave bands are almost always powered by some independent source.

Q: What about operations from mobile stations?

A: Mobile stations are part of this too. You don’t need to deploy different antennas or equipment, you just can show up at the site and operate using your vehicle-mounted antennas. If your equipment is powered from the vehicle’s electrical system, each QSO will be worth at least two points, more if you use some form of “green” power or make contacts above 902 MHz.

Q: Why is there no special category or calculation for QRP (very low-power) stations?

A: This may be something we add. Many portable operators run lower power anyway, limited by their power supplies. Let’s see what activity is like after the first few months.

Q: I took part in a public service event. How do I submit a report?

A: For each day of a public service deployment, exercise or emergency, you can claim a lump sum of 100 points. You cannot claim individual QSOs for these kinds of activities. You can, however claim for all the various locations from which you operated. These will count towards your monthly multiplier total.

Q: What counts as a contact?

A: The general rule of thumb is that a contact requires an exchange of call signs and one other piece of information. That other piece of information could be anything: you name, your grid, a signal report, your SOTA reference – whatever is appropriate for your particular operation. If you are in a VHF contest, you might only send your call sign and grid locator to another station. That’s fine. You don’t have to send the other station any of your location info if you don’t want to.

Q: How should I sign my call sign?

A: That depends:

  • Are you mobile or portable in your own call area? Perhaps just sign your call sign normally.
  • It’s also a very common practice to sign (yourcall)/P or (yourcall)/M for a portable or mobile operation in your own call area.
  • In VHF contests, “rovers” will sign (yourcall)/R as they move from grid to grid.
  • If you operate in a province or territory different than your prefix indicates, it is good Amateur practice to sign (yourcall)/VE4 when in Manitoba, for example. That applies whether you are mobile or portable.

Use your best judgement and sign your call sign the way you would like someone else to indicate their location.

Q: Are spotting networks allowed? How about self-spotting?

A: Yes, spotting networks like “DXClusters” are very popular ways to announce portable operations and to attract attention to what may be a weak, low-powered signal. Twitter is commonly used by satellite operators. Internet message boards are popular among VHF operators.

The RAC Challenge has no objection to using any of these techniques to announce your own operation, but some contests forbid it. Govern yourself by the rules of the program that is the focus of your operation.

Q: When are reports due?

A: All reports of portable operations must be submitted within seven days of each operation. That is, your operation ending on January 10 must be reported by January 17, your operation ending on February 28 must be reported by March 7, and so on.

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