ARRL June VHF Contest - 2020
Class: Single Op HP
Operating Time (hrs): 15
Band QSOs Mults
6: 220 110
2: 82 25
222: 35 10
432: 58 14
1.2: 12 5
10G: 1 1
Total: 408 165 Total Score = 87,120
Club: The Ontario VHF Association
Bit of a rollercoaster here of highs and lows, but most contests are like that.
I can't say any more before talking about how absolutely flat-out amazing six
meters was this weekend! This opportunity, of course, is why the June contest is
in June--but as we know, not every year is a good year. This year was 20 dB more
than a good year by any standards, at least for those who were not on the West
Coast. We feasted, for sure. The only other year I can recall when the Northeast
has had such spectacular conditions for the June contest was 1987. That year,
which many believe was the best year for 6 meters in June VHF Contest
history,\1/ W1XX and W9JJ (then KB9NM) operated from the summit of Overlook
Mountain in FN22 and absolutely crushed it on 6 meters with 759 QSOs and 211
grids. The 21-year-old version of me operated with W2SZ that year, and we made
709 QSOs and 206 grids. For perspective, the tenth place multioperator grid
count on 6 was 204! All that said, this year may have been even better
propagation-wise, and certainly now that nearly every shack has at least one
100-W 6-meter rig, the band is just full of life. N2NT (Limited Multi) shared
with me that they were at roughly 735 QSOs and 175 grids on 6 meters at around 9
PM Sunday, as one data point. Can't wait to see all the scores from this one!
Very glad to say that enough people have finally figured out that FT4 is the
real-deal digital contest mode, and it was awesome this weekend! The band was so
busy that it nudged a lot of folks to explore that option, and I'm so glad they
did. Most importantly, though SSB and CW were not gutted by FT8 this time!
Strategy-wise, I went into this with a semi-plan to CQ on 2 meters most of the
time, meet people there and run through the bands. Six meters was going to be
mainly (as it turns out, to the great detriment of my score, nearly all) digital
modes while I was operating elsewhere. I can't say enough how important rate is,
and I should have spent a lot more time CQing on SSB and CW on 6 meters. I
didn't spend any time on digital modes on any band but 6 meters (where I did
mostly FT4, some FT8, and a bit of MSK144).
Sunday afternoon, I went out in the yard with the 10 GHz gear for about an hour
to try to work a few stations. My surroundings are full of tall trees, so I was
only 1/4 successful, working only WA2TMC in FN02. "Just need a bit more
time" to get some gear packaged and up on the mast at 110 feet.
I had planned to get the high-gain dual-band omni on a roof mount but I ran out
of time. "Just need a bit more time" to get that done. Just a couple
of FM QSOs on 223.5 MHz for guys who didn't have SSB and CW on that band.
Sunday late morning for a couple of hours, I worked on the H frame for a pair of
2304 76-element loop Yagis, a 33-el 903 looper, and a 55-el 1296 looper. As soon
as that was all put together, I went to raise it on the short tower at the
house, and realized that a tree has grown right into the rotation path for those
antennas. Unclean words may or may not have been uttered. So I got back on the
radio. "Just need a bit more time" to deal with that. It seems that
I'm always working on projects during VHF contests for some reason.
Speaking of which, disappointed at not being heard well on 1296, I finally got
around to repairing and prepping my 70-W 1296 amplifier to go in-line. That
said, the bands kept me so busy that I didn't have time to get it in line during
the contest. "Just need a bit more time."
For those who kindly reported the squeal in my transmit audio on 222, thank you.
Since the intermediate PA failed in my 30-year-old home-brew transverter during
the January contest, I've been using one of the super inexpensive UT5
transverters temporarily as I build the new 2020 W1GHZ 222 transverter.
"Just need a bit more time" to get it done.
Finally, at 10:17 PM Sunday night, I switched to MSK144 on 2 meters to try with
K5QE. We've worked before on 2-meter MSK144, and 2 meters was quite slow at the
time, so I went there. Within a few seconds, the grid current on my 2-meter
amplifier went to 100+ mA; there was obviously a problem at its output.
At first I thought that the sequencer had failed, making my EME preamp into an
expensive fuse, but that wasn't it. A bit of testing showed that the SWR at the
feed line in the shack is 3.5:1. The antenna still hears and has directivity,
which is very good because that antenna is at the very top of the mast, 10 feet
above the top of the 105-foot tower. The bad news is the issue is somewhere
between the two points along a 350+ foot feed line. Will have to fire up the
NanoVNA and see what I can tell about where the problem is. What's especially
interesting, and fortuitous, is that it failed when it did, so close to the end
of the contest. I've been using it nearly every day for the past year on MSK144
and EME, so I'll put a checkmark in the "good luck" column. "Just
need a bit more time" to dope that out and fix it.
I decided to hang up my spurs at that point and shut everything down. It was
fun, until it wasn't (10:17 PM). This morning I realized that my score was just
a few hundred points short of my personal best from here--that was in the 1998
September VHF Contest. This year I expect to do much better in September. But
first--the 10 GHz and Up Contest, on 10, 24, 47, and 122 GHz!
Hope to see you all on the bands.
--73, Rus, K2UA
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