September 2015 VHF Contest

Posted on September 23, 2015 by Chris Lumens in .

The weekend of September 12 & 13 was the annual September VHF radio contest, which is one of a handful of radio contests I like to participate in every year. For those who don’t know, the VHF contests take place on the ham bands of 6m, 2m, 1.25m, 70cm, and on up all the way to light. How it works is that you try to make as many contacts as you can, and you can work the same person once on every band you’ve got in common. Then, the world is divided up into these little 1 degree by 2 degree grids. Your final score is roughly the number of contacts you make multiplied by the number of unique grids you make a contact in.

Setup

I started preparation for this contest at the beginning of September. Because all the VHF bands are so far apart (50 MHz, then 144 MHz, …) you need separate antennas for each one. And then if you want to get any distance at all, you need pretty big antennas and they need to be up pretty high. That all adds up to a fairly ugly setup that takes up most of the yard, so I can’t leave it up all the time. Thus I first had to spend a couple evenings getting my antennas ready. This time I’d be active on four bands, the most so far:

Of course, I forgot to take pictures of all of this.

I don’t have any rotators or amplifiers so this is a pretty simple setup. That means I don’t really ever have a chance to win, so I’m really just competing with my previous scores. Anyway that completed my outoors setup. Inside, I started with cleaning my desk off and setting up a second monitor so I could watch things and log contacts at the same time. I also checked all the radios to make sure everything worked. Enough about setup!

Saturday

The contest started a little slow but interesting. I started by hunting for people to contact (instead of calling for contacts) because I wanted to see who all was out there. 6m tends to be where most of the action is due to its propagation so I spent some time looking around for contacts, but only got a few. I switched up to 2m and immediately got several contacts from a couple different grids, including as far away as New York. One of the most interesting things that happened was that I was able to contact K1TR on top of Mt. Wachusett way down in MA, and that we were able to work through all four bands including FM on 222. I don’t think either of us thought that would work. An hour or two earlier, Lon was hiking there and saw him setting up. So that was doubly interesting.

The next couple hours passed pretty much the same. I was able to work N1GLT (who is really close to me) on four bands, and I was able to grab most New England states on 6m and 2m. Usually for me, these contests end up being me contacting all the locals and hearing the locals with big towers talking to people far away. That’s largely due to me living in a bowl. About two hours into this contest, however, I was suddenly able to hear people in Florida and South Carolina. It took some doing but I was able to get through to four new grids on 6m down there before the opening disappeared and it was back to locals-only. W2BZY in Florida even responded to me looking for calls. It was a pretty exciting half hour, especially because they would count as new grid squares towards my VUCC award.

After that, I worked the husband & wife team of NF1O and NE1F in Manchester across three bands and then took a break for dinner. You can only listen to static for so long. After dinner, I ground out a couple more contacts on 6m, worked a rover on a couple bands, and got one last nearby local 70cm contact. The contest really slows down at night, and I was just hearing the same people calling over and over again. So it was time for bed.

Sunday

Sunday was a pretty slow day due to the rain. I only got about a third of my contacts on Sunday. However, I was able to add to my grid total by working AF1T on 222 in a new grid (as well as on three other bands), finally getting through to another Connecticut grid on 6m and 2m, working NJ1H (also a really nearby guy) across three bands, and getting a couple more surprise 222 contacts just by leaving the radio on and monitoring it the whole contest. I also got a small pile of local 6m contacts. But that was it for basically all of Sunday.

Results

By my count, this was my highest VHF contest score ever. I got 12 grid squares on 6m, 4 on 2m, and two each on 1.25m and 70cm. I got 70-some contacts total. My claimed score is 1560. It’s really not very good overall but it’s my best and that’s all I am concerned about. So why did I do better this time? Being on a fourth band and getting two grids on it really helps. That’s two more multipliers which makes every other contact you made worth more points. I also got that surprise opening down south, which gave me four multipliers on 6m. That’s really big points.

Then, of course, there’s the question of what I could improve upon for next time. I’ve come up with a brief list:

Finally, I am definitely going to replace my 2m beam before the next contest. It’s really powerful, but also a total pain to store and put up. It has to be disassembled and reassembled every time because it’s too big to fit anywhere, and it’s really not made for easy assembly.