[VHFcontesting] ARRL VHF+ contest proposals - N9DG Comments

Duane Grotophorst n9dg at yahoo.com
Sun Feb 22 18:10:48 EST 2004

Please excuse the length of this post and sorry about
some of the cross posting to those who are on multiple

I do like much of what I see in the proposal and I do
agree with the three basic goals as stated. I also
find the major recommendations to be generally on the
right track. Some thoughts and suggested details to
the general proposals outlined below.

Comments about the specific recommendations are
present point by point, those without comment I have
no opinion on either way or am not familiar enough
with to comment about effectively:

Major Recommendations:
Recommendation 1 - Changes in the rover rules: - I
agree with all points as stated but do have some
concerns about the enforcement of any rules regarding
grid circling and captive rovers.

a. Separating rover scores from club competition is
also good because it removes extra pressure for rovers
to only stay near club centers, shifts primary roving
focus to rovers trying to achieve high scores as
individual operations rather than being primarily a
club score enhancing mechanism.

b. Since rovers will only competing against other
rovers, and will not be part of club scores the larger
rover scores because of the return to old scoring
method will not really be a relevant issue.

c. Close-in, pre-orchestrated grid circling (that is
often exclusionary in effect to other ops) and captive
rover activities specifically banned. The rules do
however need to be carefully written to not penalize
rovers who stumble into each other at various
desirable roving locations. It also needs to not
discourage rovers from working other rovers as a
matter of course.

d. Detecting ops who are truly acting as a captive
rover may be difficult, chosen criteria may
inadvertently flag an individual who casually operated
in the contest and has handed out only few a contacts,
even though that operator was not intending to boost
any one contest participant selectively.

e.  A distance based scoring system may even eliminate
the need for a specific rule to ban grid circling.
Would tend to make “close-in grid circling” an
unrewarding exercise from a points earned perspective.
Additionally it tends to better reward the rovers who
are activating the rarer distant grids.

Recommendation 2 - QSO Point changes: - I agree fully
with the underlying goal to encourage making more Q’s
over longer distances; but I am not sure that this
proposed point structure is the most effective way to
achieve that. I wonder how much “what-if” analysis has
been done using existing log data from recent contests
to see exactly what the effect of the 2-3 point
scoring plan actually does to scores as compared to
the existing scoring structure? Or to 6-digit grid
distance based point scoring?

a. I completely disagree with the 1 point for rover
Q’s, that would reduce incentive for fixed stations to
work rovers in far away grids; it essentially negates
most of the benefits for restoring the old scoring
system for rovers. Points for rover Q’s must be the
same as fixed stations. The last thing we want to do
is give fixed stations less motivation to work rovers,
especially the more distant and often harder to work
rovers. Fixed stations should be given more motivation
to work rovers, not less. Rovers not working many
fixed stations get bored, bored rovers either quit
roving or pack together and circle, neither are good
for VHF+ contesting.

b. Do have concerns that the proposed point structure
will de-emphasis the microwaves too much. A 4x-point
value like there is now for microwave Q’s is probably
excessive; however there should still be some level of
point per Q differentiation from the bottom 4 bands.

c.  On the face of it the 2-3 scoring appears to
strike a reasonable balance for Q’s on 50Mhz for when
that band opens up and for when it does not. It also
seems to hold up reasonably well for 144-432 as well.

d. The appropriateness of the 2-3 scoring system
becomes less clear on the bands above 902. On those
bands it does not address the excessively coarse
granularity of 4-digit grids. It also would make the
real-time calculation of scores much more difficult
without the aid of a computer in the shack.

e. In the end I wonder if it would just be better to
use a simple linear distance based point scoring using
6-digit grids for all exchanges on all bands. QSO
points then be directly derived from the actual
distance of the Q’s. This will also better reward
rovers for making long distance Q’s to population
centers when they are in a rare grid. Will also better
reward fixed stations for working the rovers and fixed
stations in far away grids. Today’s scoring puts too
much emphasis on the number of Q’s vs. the quality of
the Q’s in terms of difficulty (primarily distance) to
make them. Changes to encourage more longer distance
Q's does not detract from making just as many (or
more) close by Q's. The current Q "quantity" emphasis
lessens the incentive for stations to build better
stations, especially their antenna systems.

f. A computer would still be required to calculate
scores though. Most major contest logging programs
would be revised the authors fairly quickly to
accommodate the 6 digit grid exchange.

g. The contest robot can be made to do all the
required calculations so the contest participants
don’t really need to. The robot could respond with the
claimed final score as part of the log submission

h. The only thing that really changes for contest
participants is that they must make and log 6-digit
grid exchanges instead of 4. With the Internet
resources available today determining one’s own
6-digit grid is not difficult at all. It will however
effectively add the requirement for rovers to carry a
GPS (though many already do anyhow).

i. To avoid inadvertently turning the 3 major VHF+
contests into additional EME contests no satellite
(man made or natural) Q’s be allowed.

Recommendation 3 - June VHF QSO Party 50-1296 MHz
only: - I do not think that this is a good idea at

a. Any rule that reduces the incentive to build a
station with more bands by specifically excluding them
is detrimental to the longevity of ham radio and VHF+
contesting in general, much like the current Limited
Multiop category already tends to do.

b. A more palatable solution to the perceived
microwave bias of the current contest structure is
better addressed by adding a "Limited Single Op" (LSO)
class as proposed in recommendation 4.

c.  Adding the LSO class should have less negative
impact to all of the other existing classes since it
will be primarily designed to attract ops who would
not otherwise get on the air for a VHF+ contest. More
suggested detail under recommendation 4.

Recommendation 4 - New categories in Jan/Jun/Sept: -
This is directly linked to recommendation 3. There is
definitely a place for a few new categories that
encourages the users of the very popular “all-band,
all-mode” mobile/base/portable radios to get into VHF+
contesting. Need to be careful though to not make too
many categories that will effectively dilute
participation in existing categories.

a. A new Limited Single Op category that specifically
targets the operators who have the all-band, all-mode
radios that rarely see any SSB/CW use on the VHF+
bands otherwise.

b. The LSO category should allow operating from either
a normal home location or a single portable location.
The intent of allowing portable operating is to
encourage/allow those with all-band radios in their
vehicles to compete in a non-rover category even
though the gear used may be permanently mounted in a
vehicle. Have a restriction that requires all
operating to be done from a single location for the
entire contest; making contest Q’s while driving, or
from multiple locations would reclassify them as a
rover. Participants allowed to “come and go” from
their chosen operating location unrestricted, but they
are only allowed to make contest Q’s while stationary
at the single chosen location.

c. LSO power limits should be set to closely align
with the typical factory rated output power level of
the all-band all-mode type of radios but be
significantly below the typical “midsize” brick
amplifier power levels. For this new LSO category
these could be 100W on 50Mhz and 50W for 144, 222, and
432Mhz. Keeping the power limits lower than the
existing SOLP category will provide some built-in
incentive to make the next step in station building to
either SOLP or SOHP.

d. LSO also better accommodates the more casual FM
only ops without actually creating yet another
category since the 50W 144-432 power level is also in
line with the capability of many dual/tri/quad band FM
only radios. Allows FM ops to better compete with
others similarly equipped, the current SOLP/SOHP
classes give FM only ops nearly no chance to be
competitive. More FM only ops would add incentive to
all of the other categories to put more effort into

e. The LSO category must however include 222Mhz.
Including 222 will give those who put the small amount
of additional effort into adding that band a slight
competitive edge. That added advantage of having 222
vs. not will not however be competitively overwhelming
to those who do not have it. Adding 222 MHz will keep
the incentive for ops to be active on that band alive,
excluding it will be detrimental to 222Mhz utilization
in general.

f. To better accommodate the QRP type radios change
the existing 10W QRP Portable category into being
simply a “QRP” category that allows all bands, no time
limits, commercial power, and either portable or home

g. Ad a “Hilltopper” that is also 10W QRP, is time
limited to 12 hours (if at all) – the total time
operated need not be contiguous, no band limits, no
commercial power, be from a single location and all
equipment and antennas be portable only. Close in
design to the existing QRP Portable.

Recommendation 5a. - Simplify the limit for low power
operation to 150w for 50-144-222-432 MHz. - I agree
that a minor change for power level definitions for
SOLP are appropriate, however I don’t think that
having two levels for the bottom 4 bands like there is
currently is a problem. The focus here I think should
be to better align the SOLP category definition with
the advertised power levels of the very common
“midsize” commercial “brick” type amplifiers.

a. The 50-144 MHz bands could remain at 200W though a
drop to 175W would also be appropriate, 222-432Mhz
should be raised slightly to 125W. The 175/125W levels
would do a good job of covering the various midsize
Mirage, RFC and TE Systems brick type amplifiers. It
places the dividing line for LP/HP between the midsize
and large bricks (and most tube amps).

b. For 902 and up the SOLP definition should be raised
from 10W to at least 25W; that will allow for a better
balance in station performance with the 4 bottom
bands. Additionally since the number of participants
on these higher bands is relatively small the
importance of maintaining a sizeable power difference
between SOHP/SOLP is not nearly as relevant as it is
for the bottom 4. SOLP being allowed a bit more power
on the microwave bands will help generate more
microwave Q’s for all categories.

Recommendation 5c - Eliminate the rules that allow
Multi-Operator stations to work their own operators on
2.3G and up: - Fully agree. 

a. There was a time in the past where this rule did
make some sense; it has now outlived its usefulness.
Arguably it is now easier than ever to get onto these
higher bands so this allowance serves no purpose.

b. The current rule is essentially the same thing as
captive roving.

Recommendation - New Microwave contest based on 10 GHz
Cumulative - UHF contest dropped: - May be the correct
thing to do, but I’m not 100% sure though. Although I
have not yet operated in any of the microwave
contests, the lower limit of 2.3G seems too high for a
new merged UHF/10G+ contest, perhaps a 902 and up
contest would be better.

Changes Already Implemented:

Change 2 – Internet log entry template: - Excellent
addition, needs greater promotion though, many
non-software logging ops are not yet aware of its

Change 3 – June Club competition: - Great idea.

Change 5 – LOTW: - Improve further by building in a
mechanism to automatically transfer all of the
submitted contest logs into the LOTW.

Other possible changes that should also be considered
but were not mentioned:

Consideration 1: - Limited Multioperator definition: -
Revise the Limited Multioperator definition from
number of bands used to be the number of operators
instead (3, maybe 4 ops max). However have no
restrictions on the number of bands operated or power.
This will encourage Limited Multiop’s to use as many
bands as they can manage. May also help to reduce the
common drain of skilled ops to staff just a few LM
efforts. So limiting operators instead of bands may
also indirectly encourage more SO and/or more Limited
Multiops efforts.

Consideration 2: - Less restricted access to the final
results and scores database on the web. Requiring ARRL
membership to see all of the contest results or scores
database is counter productive to encouraging greater
participation. Allow non-members to see all contest
report data. After month or so after publishing the
results in QST all of the contests data on the web
should be made available to all and be unrestricted.

Whew, my head hurts.. ;) .


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