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Author Topic: Thinking about VHF Contesting  (Read 643 times)
KF6BKA
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Posts: 37




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« on: May 08, 2008, 04:07:19 PM »

I recently purchased an IC-211 VHF SSB and a 6M FM and I am toying with the idea of taking this stuff portable to a mountain top and trying a VHF contest. I would rather have 6M SSB but I'm having trouble locating an inexpensive radio.

I guess what I want to know is do you think contesting is fesable with my current gear? I don't know what bands/ modes are being used for VHF contesting? Maybe Digital?

Rich
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KB9CRY
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« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2008, 05:40:40 PM »

Go to the ARRL website and the CQ Magazine website and check out their VHF contests.  Those are well populated and should guide you accordingly.
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N9DG
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Posts: 313




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« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2008, 07:17:18 PM »

VHF contesting is mostly SSB and some CW, FM is rarely used on 2M. Though FM is considerably more common on 222.

Yes taking that portable to a nice high AND 'in the clear' location is quite viable. It is most certainly more viable than staying at home if it is a poor location and you only have a poor antenna.

For the antenna for such an outing take a look at the WA5VJB cheap yagi's. They are cheap and easy to build, and will give very decent gain for very modest $'s and modest effort. Download the PDF for building them from here:

http://www.wa5vjb.com/downloads.html

It is also worth using a decent coax like a LMR-400 or 9913F or equivalents. Every dB of loss eliminated is worth the effort. Even for portable ops. A 15-20 foot mast will get the antenna high enough above the ground. Picking a good location takes care of the rest of the all important height consideration.

Also consider that a barefoot IC-211 is low enough in power that it could be easily operated in the Single Operator Portable category - see:

http://www.arrl.org/contests/announcements/rules-vhf.html

For your current situation that is the category I would go for.

For best results be sure to find a spot that gives you the most different clear shot directions to point the antenna as you can. And once up and operating during the contest keep the antenna moving in different directions, and call CQ frequently, especially if you don't hear anyone. Those who score well in VHF contest do both of these things.

While the 2M activity is centered on 144.200, don't try to cling to it. As a weaker signal you will often be covered by the higher powered stations. And in the Midwest most competitive single ops and multi ops do not cling to .200, more often than not they are found 15-25 or more kHz above or below .200.

 
 
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KF6BKA
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Posts: 37




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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2008, 10:35:01 PM »

Duane,

Thank you that helps me a lot! Sounds like this will be a worthwile endevor

Rich
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AB2KT
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Posts: 62




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« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2008, 11:11:31 PM »

By all means, do the Single Op Portable category. It's a *lot* of fun. Part of the fun is being a new player among a group of players who know one another pretty well. Like a tiny taste of being rare DX for awhile. Everybody wants to work you, especially if you have multiple bands.

Couple of things I've concluded about running in that category after doing it for a few years:

(1) 2 meters is your bread and butter, and not just SSB. There's plenty of CW activity too. You can do OK with pair of stacked loops.

(2) The payback for having a decent 70cm rig is enormous because of the band multiplier. An 11-element cheap yagi for 432 is only about 5 feet long in the boom and easy to handle. If you're really concerned with score, it helps a lot to have 432 when you've hooked up with a multiband station. I won my section once in the single op portable category largely on account of the band mult. I'm trying real hard to get 1296 and maybe 2400 up and running also this year.

(3) 6 meters is *almost* a waste of time in that category. It's the one place where you're at a complete power disadvantage compared to the full-up contest stations. And the 6m openings are really brief. By the time the big guns have finished, the opening is gone.

6 is worth doing to go after a few outlying or unexpected grids, but you spend a lot of time chasing without catching much. Without power, you're still stuck with a marginal antenna, probably. A two or three element beam isn't so superior to rotatable dipole as to justify the extra complications, in this setting. Most of the time you'll be using the directionality of the antenna to null out any nearby big gun 6 stations. If you're serious about 6 you definitely need at lest a 4 or 5 el yagi and a lot of patience. Oh, and be sure to try CW on 6 especially.

So, do it, and have fun, lots of it. Guaranteed. The contesting crew is very friendly and encouraging.

73
Frank
AB2KT
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KF6BKA
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« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2008, 02:40:53 AM »

Is that 70cm fm?
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N9DG
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Posts: 313




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« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2008, 09:34:34 AM »


70cm contesting is primarily SSB/CW just like 6&2M, you might find some FM on 446.000 though, especially in more urban areas. And you maybe even be able to scare up some non-contest participant Q's there as well. If you have FM only 70cm gear definitely bring it along, something on any band is always better than nothing. The rough make up of upper Midwest activity, i.e. 90% of the QSO's on the VHF+ contesting bands is something like this:

50MHz SSB CW
144MHz SSB CW
222MHz SSB CW FM
432MHz SSB CW
902/3 MHz SSB CW
1296&up MHz SSB CW

On 6&2M there is also a fair amount of WSJT activity through the dead of the night as the big guns set aside time to work schedules. They do this to primarily to build up multiplier totals. WSJT modes do not lend themselves to rapid QSO rates, that is one reason it is done during quiet times on the contest bands. I myself have not pursued using WSJT this far, but do expect that the day will come where it will become necessary to remain competitive.

In general what I have found here in the upper Midwest is that the number of FM Q's to be made during a VHF contest is usually quite low. The only partial exception to that is the 222 MHz band. The main reason for the difference on 222 is because no recent or current 'DC to daylight' radios include 222. So ops who do get on that band with SSB/CW are most likely to be running transverters. But many do want to get on that band with something, so the FM modile allows them to achieve that. The other 3 'lower' V/UHF bands on the other hand are included in all 'DC to daylight' radios.    

What usually happens in VHF contests is that 2M is definitely the 'bread and butter' band as long as 6M doesn't open up. If 6M opens up in a big way then things get pretty quiet on 2M and up. The 6M openings can be short as just a few minutes, or like we saw in June 2006, open for most of the weekend. If you have the capability then it is still a good idea to keep tabs on those others bands for people who may pop up there in the middle of big 6M event.

One thing that VHF contesting does require is patience and stamina. You can easily go a couple hours and not make single Q in some stretches. But I have also won my section by sticking to it and sustaining lengthy time periods of only making 3-5 Q's an hour, but by keeping that piddly rate up over a 10 or 12 hour stretch the Q's do add up.
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N9DG
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Posts: 313




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« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2008, 09:39:19 AM »

Also BTW bring the 6M FM radio along. If 6M opens up big like it did in 2006 you will find some FM Q's to make. They just wouldn't be as numerous as on SSB or CW. Again having 'something' on a band is always better than nothing.
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AB2KT
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Posts: 62




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« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2008, 10:49:11 PM »

Duane said it all (and you couldn't be getting it from a better source), but just to toss in 2 cents, no it's 432 SSB & CW. The antennas are starting to get real small up there, so an FT-817 or something with 5 watts goes a long way.

I built a large corner reflector for 432 that worked wonderfully well, but it was heavy and clumsy, and it scared all the dogs and children, so I scrapped it. I guess the point is you can have fun with some unusual designs on 432 and up, and you can also do very well with extremely simple designs.

Enjoy.
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N3AWS
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Posts: 94




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« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2008, 12:57:31 PM »

Hi Rich,

Back to your original question...consider a FT817.  I've have one and used it with a 17 A-Hr battery and wire dipole in the Single OP portable category.  When conditions are good, it will get you Q's on 6 meters and lots of grid square multipliers.  Of course you can also use it on 2 and 0.7 meters.

If you can get your hands on an Icom 706, I set mine to scan from 50.125 through 50.205.  It can scan in the background while I monitor 2 meters.  When the band opens, I hear it.  Move quick to get those multipliers (I prefer search and pounce).  Once you get the "low hanging fruit", don't be afraid to call CQ if the band is still open.  Remember, too, that six meter openings can jump around.  A few short openings can really fill up your multi[lier list.

Every contest is different.  The more bands, the better.  CW sometimes completes the QSO when USB can't quite make it.  

73,  Jim N3AWS  EM50
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