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 has recently been expanded to
include higher level endorsements. The new awards are known as
WAZS-200, WAZS-300 and so on. There is no upper limit, but no-one
has thus far applied for anything higher than WAZS-400.
The entry-level award rules specify a minimum number
of callsigns from each call area. The requirements are based on the
number of amateurs in each call area, as indicated by the Callbook. The
least populous call area is the Northern Cape. Only 1% of amateurs in
South Africa live in this province. Accordingly, only one ZS3 station is
required for the award. The ZS6 call area, on the other hand, has a
requirement of 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 cards / SA-QSL electronic QSLs
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 unknown 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.
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, and the astute all-mode and all-band operator might want to
apply on SSB, CW 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 14 MHz and 3,5 MHz. The
higher bands (21 and 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.
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!
QSLing / electronic QSLing
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. However, working them is only half the battle. The other
half is getting the QSL cards.
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
To make QSLing easier and more cost effective the SARL now provides an electronic QSLing option called SA-QSL. QSOs confirmed on this fully electronic system as accepted by the SARL for its awards and for licence upgrade.
If you decide to pursue WAZS, here are some
• Make use of the SARL's electronic QSL system, SA-QSL. This system currently yields over 55% return on QSOs submitted and is your best bet to quickly get your QSOs confirmed.
• Ask the other operator during the contact what the
best way would be to get a QSL. Explain why the card is so desirable,
and make sure you understand what the other operator will and will not
do. Also make sure that you obtain 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
• 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 do this is to enclose an SASE
(self-addressed, stamped envelope). The other amateur can them 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.
• Realise that you will have to work a few more
stations than the minimum requirement. Some operators will promise a
card 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 play the game,
though. There are many others chasing this award, and your QSL is very
important to them. Even if you don’t think that it makes sense to send
several QSLs for 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!