January VHF Contest Results

Posted on January 23, 2017 by Chris Lumens in .

This past weekend was the January VHF contest. WA1TE and I operated as K1SIG from my house. I knew it isn’t a very good location for VHF operations, but we were out of options and it’s hard to be a rover in New England in the winter. We’d operated in the January 2016 contest so I knew what to expect - lots of slow periods, little help from propagation, and very long distance contacts at all. I therefore set my expectations low, hoping only to beat our previous score of 1222.

I spent Friday working from home, setting up antennas and running coax when I had a few spare minutes. One of the reason we operate these contests from my house is that I already have beams for the bottom four VHF/UHF bands and an office that can support two people operating at the same time. It’s pretty much the only advantage I have here.

Inside, we would have three operating positions set up:

Outside, I set up two masts out of EMT. You’re not really supposed to use EMT for anything structural, but I figure it’s probably alright as long as there’s not much wind. On the 10’ mast, I put my big five element 6 meter beam. On the 20’ mast, I put the other three beams: The seven element M2 2 meter beam at 20’, the eight element Directive Systems 1.25 meter beam at 16’, and the fifteen element Diamond 70cm beam at 12’.

That setup looked like this (extremely backlit, it was overcast all weekend):

It was all ready to go by Saturday morning. We met Sean for lunch and then he followed back to the house to get his radio set up and get on the air. The first two hours of Saturday were probably the busiest for us. I made 25 contacts in three grids. Things were a little slower for Sean on 2m with nine contacts but just as many grids, including the surprise of FN53. Most of that grid is in the ocean, with just a little bit of Maine thrown in. That would be the most interesting grid we got. We both split our time calling CQ and hunting for stations.

The next two hours slowed way down. I only got four contacts on 6m in that time, and Sean managed the same on 2m. We didn’t get any new grids on those bands either, so no new point multipliers. However, Sean threw out a call on 70cm FM just to see if anyone was paying attention, and he got two people come back immediately so that was good for four points and a multiplier. We followed that up with five contacts on 1.25 meters in two grids so that added a bunch more points to our total.

We then took a break for dinner - steak, potatoes, and rye whiskey with Sarah.

After dinner, we sat back down for three extremely slow hours. I got eight contacts but managed two new grids, while Sean got nine contacts in two new grids. In between calling CQ for long stretches with no responses and finding people I’d already talked to, I tried to make some digital mode contacts. I succeeded in getting one local, but being down in a hole at the house meant I couldn’t really get anyone. Sean spent time discovering his digital mode box wasn’t working as well as practicing some very slow CW.

We finished the night off with more rye and episodes of Archer.

On Sunday, I woke up early and headed downstairs to see if anything was happening. I didn’t want to wake anyone up so I stuck to digital modes. Again, I only managed a local. I spent about two hours trying to make a contact with VE1SKY in Nova Scotia. Sometimes I could hear him, and sometimes he could hear me, but never enough to complete a contact.

I made nine contacts on 6m before lunch, nothing especially notable. Sean made six on 2m. Between us, we made four more contacts on 1.25m and 70cm including our last new grid. After lunch, we ground it out for two more very slow hours in which we combined for six contacts. By 4pm we were both tired of it (even though the contest continued until 10pm). Right at the end, we made our only contacts with rovers.

Somehow, despite how slow it felt, we finished with 96 contacts and 15 grid multipliers for a total of 1680 points. Compared to last January, we got more grids on each band and more contacts on each band except for 6 meters. We also set a record for VHF contests at my house. Contest score details are here.

In the end, we had fun despite the slowness and low scores. Our previous roving trip really spoiled us to how much more exciting VHF contesting can be when you’re making contacts every minute for hours at a time. We were also able to test out couple new things for our future contest operations: