I competed in the CW and phone portions of the ARRL DX Contest earlier this year. The CW portion took place February 15-16, 2020, and the phone portion took place March 7-8, 2020. My contest participation is usually casual, and I do not operate for the entire period of the contest. My primary goal during this contest is to work new DX stations.
The ARRL has a page to search contest scores and download copies of certificates earned for contest participation. I usually forget to check, since I never anticipate having a competitive score. When I checked this year, I had a pleasant surprise. In the Single Operator, Low Power category, I placed 3rd in the Georgia Section for both contests!
The CQ World Wide VHF Contest ran from 1800 UTC (2:00 PM EDT) on Saturday, July 18th, through 2100 UTC (5:00 PM EDT) on Sunday, July 19th. I participated for about 8 hours total at various times on both days. The band conditions were not very good, but there were some short openings to New England, southeastern Canada, the Midwest, and Texas. Despite the less than ideal conditions, I was able to make 56 contacts in 40 different grid squares, for a total score of 2,240.
My HF wire antenna was down after an unexpected and strong thunderstorm on Saturday evening took down the limb holding it. That left me with just my 6 meter antenna. Thankfully, there were some decent 6 meter openings to Texas, the upper Midwest, New England and southeastern Canada for most of the morning and afternoon. I was able to complete 56 FT8 contacts during about 4 hours of operating time, with a preliminary score of 274. That’s not an impressive score, but not too bad for working a limited period of time only on 6 meters. My score will be combined with the club’s 2A score, as well any scores submitted by other members who participated from home and included ARCCC in their submitted results.
I have participated in several ham radio contests over the past couple of years. I have a modest station, so I don’t achieve high scores. My goal is to learn and improve my operating skills with each contest. Wikipedia explains amateur radio contesting as:
Contesting (also known as radiosport) is a competitive activity pursued by amateur radio operators. In a contest, an amateur radio station, which may be operated by an individual or a team, seeks to contact as many other amateur radio stations as possible in a given period of time and exchange information.
There are lots of contests throughout the year sponsored by various organizations. This weekend, I participated in the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) June VHF Contest. The goal for this contest is to complete successful contacts with as many stations in as many different 2 degrees x 1 degree Maidenhead grid squares as possible using authorized frequencies above 50 MHz. The contest ran from 4:00 PM Eastern on Saturday through 10:59 PM Eastern on Sunday (or 1800 UTC Saturday, June 13th through 0259 UTC Monday, June 15th). I only participated for a few hours on Sunday.
For this contest, participants are allowed to make contacts via SSB (phone), CW (Morse Code), or various digital modes. I chose to use the FT8 digital mode on the 6 meter ham band (discussed in my previous post – “I’m hooked on 6 meters!”). The 6 meter band is known by hams as “the magic band”. Although it is located in the lower portion of the VHF band, it sometimes has propagation characteristics similar to the HF bands. That means long-distance communications are sometimes possible on the band. During the late Spring and early Summer months, there are frequent band openings from Sporadic E propagation. Under normal conditions, the band is limited to local, line-of-sight communications. When there is a Sporadic E opening, communication becomes possible over much longer distances – hundreds and occasionally thousands of miles. It can be hit or miss, and the openings can last from seconds to more than a day. That’s the magic of the band, and the challenge is to be at the radio when the band opens.
This weekend, hams in many parts of the U.S. were in luck. There were several Sporadic E openings on Saturday and Sunday, so high scores were possible! I only participated casually on Sunday. During the early morning, there was no Sporadic E, so I was only able to contact stations within an approximately 150-mile radius from grid EM83 (where I’m located). Later in the morning, we had Sporadic E openings from the Southeast to New England and southeastern Canada, and eventually to the Midwest and Texas. The band openings lasted into the evening, with several lulls. The map below shows all of the stations that received and decoded my FT8 signals. I did not complete contacts with all of them, but at some point during the day lots of stations east of the Rockies were receiving me.
I finished the day with 106 contacts, and a score of 6,360. The score is calculated by multiplying the number of contacts (106) by the number of multipliers (60). Multipliers are determined by the number of unique gird squares worked. This will not be a competitive score, but this was my first time in this particular contest. I’ll try to improve next year if the magic happens again. I would also like to try my hand at CW for this contest. In a few months, ARRL will publish the contest results, and I can see how my scores compares to others.