I had been looking forward to the ARRL June VHF contest. It’s always fun to get on the air when there is a great deal of activity — or at least expected activity. That proved true in the 2017 version, particularly on six meters.
As part of my preparation, six meters started warming up and even extended to a hot point. As just one example, you may have seen my blog post on the fantastic six meter opening that helped me snag two contacts with Japan. Later that week I also managed to work EA8DBM. BTW — that blog post was mentioned in the K7RA Solar Update. That mention generated 500+ views of my post in the past week. This is compared to an average of 90 to 100 views of my entire website on a daily basis.
As part of the preparation I also put up a new two meter antenna, a 10-element Diamond, and repositioned my 2m and 70cm antennas from vertical polarization with 15 degrees elevation to horizontal polarization with no elevation. I’ve found that this arrangement still works great for satellites, perhaps because of the higher gain from the two meter antenna. Of course, when the satellites are directly overhead, I’m not hearing them.
I will note that there are far more sophisticated antennas available than the Diamond antennas that I use for 2m and 70cm. However, they are extremely broadband which is needed to cover both satellites and DX sides of the band. Plus, they are very lightweight, which is important for my push up mast. It also doesn’t matter to me that they can only handle 100 watts, since that’s all I’ve got.
I managed to put 129 QSOs in the log and 84 grids. This is down from June 2016 when I found 179 QSOs and 103 grids. The big difference was that 6 meters was open for extended periods of time here in Texas during 2016. Not quite the same in 2017 with good openings but long periods of silence as well. One difference was 28 contacts on 2 meters with 14 grids and 14 contacts of 70cm with 11 grids in 2017. Up from 8 contacts on 2m and 5 on 70cm in 2016.
I was found and logged C6ATA on 6m CW, a new DXCC, along with a total 6 new grids on six meters. That gets me well over the 300 grid mark on six.
Favorite Contact — NJ7H from Mount Scott
Of all those contacts, my favorite was from NJ7H as he drove back home from HamCom here in Dallas. He made a big detour to Mount Scott in Oklahoma, which rises over 800 feet above the surrounding terrain. He was there to activate EM04 on satellites but pointed his satellite Arrow antenna directly at Dallas and other places. I happened to be on 2 meters and heard his familiar call sign, having worked him a fair number of times on satellites in rare grids from VE8 to TG7 and HR9. Worked him on 2m and the signal was even better on 70 cm, probably because the Arrow has more elements on 70cm. That was a fun contact.
Another satellite buddy, KG5CCI, also worked me from a mountain top on 2m and 70cm for a new grid. It turns out he was using an Arrow antenna as well, mounted on a mast. Those are fantastically effective antennas for satellites and for VHF contesting. Amazing Arrow Antennas.
I will mention that I worked W5ZN on 2m and 70cm for a new grid. Joel essentially introduced me to VHF contesting during his session at Contest University. So I had always wanted to work him. Plus, I’d heard him a few times in previous contests but could not make contact. The 2m contact went well and then we transitioned to 70cm. We couldn’t make that work on SSB but Joel pulled out his key and shot me some CW. We were both a bit rusty with our hand-keyed CW, but we made the contact. Not only that but they are both confirmed in Logbook of the World this morning.
BTW I also took two breaks to pick up 5 new satellite contacts — four from NJ7H on a grid corner and one from WD9EWK at the Grand Canyon.
The weekend was all about working grids and generating grins.
I have a few thoughts pulled together toward improvements for the next VHF contests. I will note that this is one of the reasons that I like contesting — it helps me find out what needs to improve in my station equipment and my operating techniques.
I’ve also been giving thought to possible rover operations for the September and January contests. My current thoughts are to take my IC-910H on the road to set up 2m and 70cm operations from local grids, EM01, EM02, EM03, EM11, and perhaps EM21. That would allow me to point toward Dallas at each stop and to bring Austin, Houston, and San Antonio into play as well. Driving, setting up, and working a few contacts would at least give me something to do during these generally slow contests. Not sure I’d want to do that in June when 6 meters is hopping.
I won’t be on for the CQ VHF contest in July due to a conflict with the Boy Scouts Jamboree, where I’ll be helping with the K2BSA operation.
One further thought is whether JT65 is a worthwhile expenditure of time during a contest. I picked up a few multipliers but it took so long to get them. Not only is the mode slow but getting a response is very challenging with so many other stations on the air at the same time. I tried MSK144 and worked a couple of locals, but 100 watts and small antennas aren’t the ticket there, although they will work. Something to think about for next June.
I hope your contest went well and that you had fun. I know I did. To those of you who worked my puny signal, thank you for digging me out of the noise.