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Worked all ZS: An interesting operating goal

SA-QSL system

One of the League's premier operating awards is Worked All ZS (WAZS). The award, as the name implies, is given for working a large number of South African stations. The entry level is 100 different callsigns, but the programme also includes higher level endorsements. The more advanced awards are known as WAZS-200, WAZS-300 and so on. As of 2020, the leading station is approaching WAZS-2000.

The entry-level award rules specify a minimum number of callsigns from each call area to be contacted. The requirements are based on the number of licenced amateurs in each call area. The least populous call area is the Northern Cape, with only 1% of South African amateurs. Accordingly, only one ZS3 callsign is required for the award. The ZS6 call area, on the other hand, requires 56 callsigns. In principle, working and confirming 56 ZS6 stations should be roughly as difficult as working a single ZS3!

Chasing WAZS is fun. One simply has to sit around and contact different ZS stations, until the required 100 confirmations are in hand. In the process, one will become acquainted with many new operators, and perhaps form lasting friendships. One can also learn a lot about the country's geography, as many of these operators are bound to be in unfamiliar and interesting places. For a South African, the low frequencies (perhaps 14 MHz and below) would be the best choice for chasing ZS stations. On weekends and evenings, one can often hear dozens of stations on 7 MHz, and in winter much of the activity moves down to 3,5 or even 1,8 MHz. Even with a relatively simple antenna, it is not hard to find 100 stations.

The serious WAZS chaser will probably want to pursue different endorsements beyond the basic entry level. The operator can request an endorsement for any mode or band at the time of application. The astute all-mode and all-band operator might want to apply on SSB, CW, Digital and perhaps several single band endorsements. For a South African, a 7 MHz endorsement is probably the easiest single band endorsement to obtain, perhaps followed by 3,5 MHz. The higher bands (14, 21 and especially 28 MHz) are much harder, as one would be dependent on weak back-scatter signals, often in competition with much louder signals from the northern hemisphere. ZS stations are just not that easy to work on the high bands! Short skip only happens occasionally, and often there is no activity at the other end.

WAZS is not only for South Africans, though. Past winners from outside of southern Africa are SM5WI (1961), VE3BWY (1962), W2GFF (1962), G4CP (1963), W6USG (1963), 9Q5JW (1964), LA8WF (1970), FR7ZG, PY5ASN, I1SF, ZL4BO (all 1971), OK2QR, SP9-649 (1973), OK1FF (both 1974), DL1QT (1978), F3DE (1983), W1IHS (1984), VK5RX (1986) and WDX2CY (1993). Anyone with a working knowledge of propagation will concede that if ZL4BO could do it, it can be done from anywhere on earth!

Confirming your Contacts

Working 100 ZS stations is relatively easy. In years past, it was possible to work the requisite 100 callsigns in the SARL HF Phone contest, in a matter of hours. However, working them is only half the battle. The other half is getting the confirmations.

Unfortunately, South Africans are often not the most reliable QSLers. This factor makes WAZS challenging. Anyone who has obtained WAZS will confirm that it is substantially harder than DXCC!

Fortunately, WAZS no longer requires paper QSL cards. The SARL’s SA-QSL system allows SARL members easy and free confirmation of contacts with other South Africans.

If you decide to pursue WAZS, here are some QSLing tips:

  • Make use of the SARL's electronic QSL system, SA-QSL. Just upload every contact to the system on the SARL Website. More than half the operators are likely to confirm the contacts reasonably quickly.
  • Ask the other operator during the contact what the best way would be to get a confirmation. Explain why the confirmation is so desirable, and make sure you understand what the other operator will and will not do. If you have to rely on a QSL card, ensure that you can get access to the operator’s address, either by looking it up on the SARL Website’s Callbook feature or by obtaining a direct address if the operator is not listed in the Callbook.
  • Understand that non-members of the League are barred from using the QSL bureau. For non-members, direct QSLing is the only way.
  • Allow several months for bureau cards. The bureau nominally sends cards to members every three months, so if the other operator responds immediately, the card might still take six months to get to you. In practice, not everyone responds immediately!
  • If you request a direct card, enclose sufficient return postage. The best way to provide return postage is to enclose an SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope). The other amateur can then simply fill in the card, and place the reply in the provided envelope. This technique not only ensures the minimum of effort for the respondent, but also minimises the probability of error, as the address is written by someone intimately familiar with it. If the other amateur does not have printed cards, you might even consider providing a card that you’ve produced in a word processor or other layout package. The operator can then simply check and sign the card, place it in the SASE and mail. The less effort you impose on him or her, the more likely you are to get a response.
  • Realise that you will have to work more stations than the minimum requirement. Some operators will promise a confirmation when asked, but will not get around to it within a reasonable amount of time, or may not even respond, ever. That's the breaks; I'm sure anyone who has tried to get service in South Africa is aware that not everyone places a high premium on reliability!

If you are not in the fray, please still play the game, though. There are many others chasing this award. Your QSL is very important to them. Even if you don't think that it makes sense to send several QSLs for contacts on different modes and bands, please humour them; if they regard it as important enough to send you a request, clearly they are hoping for a reply!

Page author: Chris R. Burger ZS6EZ

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This page last modified: 30/6/2020