ARRL UHF Contest
Class: Rover HP
Operating Time (hrs):
Band QSOs Mults
222: 36 12
432: 35 13
903: 28 11
1.2: 28 11
2.3: 64 11
3.4: 64 11
5.7: 64 11
10G: 64 11
Total: 383 101 Total Score = 365,721
This is a summary of an entry in the ARRL UHF
contest, but it's also a discussion of why the
UHF contest has become so dormant on the west
coast, with a suggestion for a new scoring system
that might boost activity. The very popular 10
GHz and Up Cumulative Contest, held two weeks after
the UHF contest (and also on a September weekend),
uses such a scoring system.
A group of us roved in California during the 2008 UHF
contest. The contest attracted little notice--again.
No rover submitted a log on the west coast last year.
Only a handful of west coast fixed stations submitted
logs in 2007. The high scorer on the west coast last
year was a single op with 12,500 points. The #1
single op nationally had 370,000 points (in Iowa).
In Minneapolis-St. Paul and the upper midwest,
the UHF contest is HUGE (as it is in the
northeast). The Northern Lights Radio Society
has made it a club showplace called "Rovermania."
In California, it's the 10 GHz contest that's popular.
The San Bernardino Microwave Society held a tune-up
party and picnic in preparation for the 10 GHz
contest--during the UHF contest.
We tried to drum up some activity, but we didn't have
much luck making random contacts (i.e., Qs with people
who found us without knowing where and when to look).
We worked mainly people we knew. K6VCR borrowed my
van (with a station covering all bands through 10 GHz)
and did a fixed portable operation at Torrey Pines in
DM12. We worked him many times as we roved. We also
set up five rover stations for all bands through 10
GHZ and roved from Orange County (DM13) across L.A.,
north to Mojave and then on to Madera, north of Fresno.
We activated 10 grid squares. W6YLZ, who was already
busy planning for another of his landmark 10 GHz
DXpeditions deep into Mexico two weeks later, made
time to rove with N6MU in the unlimited category.
AF6O also operated unlimited and flew solo, but was
only available Saturday. I (N6NB) operated in the
"classic" category, also solo. KG6TOA operated alone
in the limited (four-band) category. In a truly
heroic act the morning after a hospital visit, W6TE
joined us as a classic rover Sunday in Madera,
using an extra station and antenna system that I
had hauled up there to mount in his truck.
W6YLZ, blessed with a driver, devoted full time
to operating and called CQ constantly. He would call
on 432.1, then 446 FM, 223.5 FM, 1296.1 and
1294.5 FM--then go through that cycle again. He
worked absolutely no one by calling CQ for two hours
as he crossed L.A. and the Antelope Valley. In fact,
he didn't make his first contact by calling CQ until about
9 p.m. By the time the "contest" was over Sunday, he
had made 14 random contacts with seven stations by
calling CQ continuously for at least six hours. It
was that slow.
Meanwhile, "Rovermania V" was booming in the upper midwest.
The UHF contest must have been as busy there as the 10
GHz contest is in Southern California.
What makes the difference? Clearly one factor is the
influence of microwave-oriented clubs. The XE
DXpeditions, which allow even modest stations to work
1000 km. on 10 GHZ, are also a major attraction of
the 10 GHz and Up Contest.
Another big difference between the two contests, of
course, is that working 1000 km. counts for something
in the 10 GHz contest. Scores are based on the
distance worked, not on grid square multipliers.
In a recent column in QST, Gene Zimmerman said that
switching to the scoring system used in the 10 GHz
contest would improve the UHF contest. I very
much agree. Then all scoring would be based on
distance and grid squares would be irrelevant.
Six-digit grid squares are exchanged on 10 GHz
only to simplify distance calculations. Although
the top scorers on 10 GHz all "rove" because you
can work the same people again each time you move
at least 10 miles, grid circling is pointless.
Actually, grid circling isn't even a good strategy
for "classic" rovers in VHF contests under today's
rules. A better way to use your quota of 100 QSOs
with another rover is to make every contact count
as a new multiplier. You can't do that by grid
I wrote the original draft of the rules for the UHF
contest as chairman of the ARRL Contest Advisory
Committee in 1977 and had the highest single operator
score and the most QSOs in the first UHF contest in
1978--138 random contacts, made by camping out on a
mountaintop with kilowatts. That strategy would not
work well in California today. Activity patterns
have changed in the last 30 years and the scoring
system needs to change, too. I believe a
distance-based scoring system would make the UHF
contest more appealing and interesting.
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