by Roger Wood – From a news release issued by the World Radiosport Team Championship organizers.
The World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) organizers have selected 16 New England communities as operating sites to host its 7th quadrennial radiosport competition, the first held in the United States since 1996. From July 9 through 14, the world’s top amateur radio operators will converge on towns spanning the Route 495 corridor for the “Olympiad of amateur radio,” WRTC2014. Previous WRTC competitions have been held in Seattle (1990), San Francisco (1996), Slovenia (2000), Finland (2002), Brazil (2006), and Russia (2010).
WRTC2014 pits 59 two-operator all-star amateur radio teams, representing 38 countries, in a battle of operating skill and strategy under emergency field conditions, for personal and national pride on a world stage. Similar to Olympic athletes, competitors hone their skills for superior performance through mental and physical conditioning, talent, skill and strategy. This form of competition evolved as a method of practicing emergency communication, but also serves as a laboratory for technology innovation and experimentation, much like other technical sports, such as motor sports or sailing.
Operating sites for WRTC2014 include private properties, state parks and other state- and town-owned facilities in Mansfield, Wrentham, Devens, Assonet, Berkley, Dighton, Pepperell, Hollis (NH), East Taunton, Plymouth, Carver, Leominster, Medfield, Cohasset, Hingham and Norwell, each carefully selected to establish a level playing field.
Past Field Day operation by Port City Amateur Radio Club – Courtesy PCARC
Competing teams were selected from around the world in a series of 55 qualifying events over a 3-year period. Just earning a spot in the competition is a prestigious accomplishment for every competitor, allowing them to represent their country and have the opportunity to win a coveted place on the podium. Mark Pride, K1RX is one of the directors of the competition, and lives in Kensington, New Hampshire. He is also President of the Port City Amateur Radio Club, at w1wqm.org. His club recently participated in the annual National Field Day Competition, scoring some 3300 contacts, including one with the International Space Station, over a 24 hour period. His club operated from Stratham Hill in New Hampshire.
View of Port City Club operation from above – Courtesy Photo
WRTC2014 teams will compete to contact other amateur radio stations in countries around the globe using both voice and Morse code transmissions. Top teams will operate without sleep for the entire 24-hour competition in an effort to contact as many stations and countries as possible, pursuing the highest score, to earn the distinction of “the best in the world.” Top level radiosport enthusiasts originate from all walks of life and a variety of professions.
2010 Honorees at Moscow event – Courtesy WRTC
It is common for technology CEOs, emergency room physicians, retired diplomats, members of the military, and engineers to each compete on a level playing field with university students, bankers, grocery store managers or antique dealers.
Amateur Radio, or “ham radio” as it is often called, enables licensed participants to use short wave frequencies to communicate with peers from around the world. Licensed “hams” in the United States are authorized by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to use their radio equipment to talk anywhere on earth, using different “modes of operation” such as voice, Morse code, or any of several digital modes, also pioneered within the ham radio community. Today, there are more licensed amateur radio operators than ever before – over 700,000 in the U.S. alone, in addition to more than a million operators around the world. Radio amateurs are prohibited by law from accepting compensation of any kind for any activities they perform as radio operators. Everyone involved in WRTC2014 is participating purely for the love of the sport.
“WRTC2014 is much more than an international sporting competition,” shares Randy Thompson, WRTC2014 Co-Chairman. “It is also an opportunity for these great operators to meet each other, often for the first time, after years of radio contacts. It also allows radio amateurs within New England to interact with some of the top operators from around the globe, and to demonstrate the international appeal of amateur radio.”
Returning to the United States after 18 years, WRTC2014 gathers competitors, referees, and visitors from around the world to connect and celebrate amateur radio. Westborough’s DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel serves as team village, headquarters, and the venue for the WRTC2014 opening and closing ceremonies. Hundreds of spectating visitors are also expected to attend, taking advantage of the rare opportunity to network with amateur radio luminaries worldwide, while enjoying the surrounding area’s rich history and regional charm. On the global scale, thousands more will “tune in” and participate over the airwaves, and follow the event’s real-time Internet scoreboard to stay abreast of competition results. The largest “radiosport” competitions draw activity from over 20,000 participants and can collectively include more than two million two-way contacts – all in one weekend.
Amateur radio plays a key role as a critical emergency service in times of disaster when other forms of communication fail. Locally, this was demonstrated after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, when cellular networks were overloaded and failed. Amateur radio operators have assisted in providing communication services to the Marathon for many years, and were on hand to provide vital communications for Marathon volunteers following the bombing. Critical communication services were also provided by hams during the aftermath of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Radio amateurs have been involved in the front lines of developing modern communications systems, including the fundamental technology used in all cell phones.
2014 also marks the centennial anniversary of the founding of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) – the national association for amateur radio in the United States. ARRL assists people in obtaining their amateur radio license and promotes the wide variety of interests within the hobby. The ARRL will hold its national convention weekend following WRTC2014 in Hartford, CT. WRTC2014 is recognized by ARRL as a centennial celebration activity. Many WRTC participants and visitors are expected to stay in the area to attend both events.