[VHFcontesting] My Proposal to the VUAC

Jimk8mr at aol.com Jimk8mr at aol.com
Mon Mar 16 19:31:06 PDT 2009

I'll be the first to admit that I came into VHF via the HF world, and have  
nothing to apologize for having done so.  Unfortunately, Marshall, you  don't 
seem to understand the HF world enough to make a comparison.
What exactly is it that makes you think no qsos in the ARRL DX Contest are  
valid?  Both sides exchange a callsign and information, and get it into  both 
logs. What more does a guy need to do?  How is this different that a  good six 
meter op running rate during an Es opening?  Should those contacts  be 
disallowed for VUAC? Is there some level of redundancy necessary to make a  contact a 
Where did you get the idea that HF ops think pre-contest schedules are  evil? 
We don't, we just don't think they are effective or worth the bother,  other 
than perhaps in a multi-multi environment where too many ops have too much  
unproductive time on their hands.
The real difference between HF and VHF is that the former is largely QRM  
limited, the later is largely noise limited. Getting around those limitations  
requires somewhat different strategies. One can find the rare African all by  
yourself and not fight a pileup, or you can watch the packet network, wait  for 
one to be spotted, and try to work him through a horrific pileup.  Some  
people relish this, but these are the station builders who use contests to judge  
their station building efforts, rather than those who are in it for maximum  
action.  (Actually most of those qsos occur by calling CQ with a very loud  
signal, and those multipliers will call you.  The major contest expedition  
stations are the exception.)
My take on the popularity of the CQ VHF contest is that if six meters  opens, 
you don't have to have all those UHF or microwave bands where you invest  
time and/or money to work the same handful of people. There are lots of  
commercially available radios that cover both the needed bands.  If six doesn't open, 
it is a pretty boring contest, with only two possible  qsos per station, and 
not all that popular.
I find that some rovers can be rather difficult to work if you aren't on  
their schedule list. Eventually if you get serious you will get on their list,  
but for a beginner or casual contester to be expected to find an occasional  
burst of activity on an out of the way "calling frequency" is unrealistic.  
Adding cell phones in place of a two meter calling frequency does nothing  to 
improve the situation.
>From anecdotal reports, the problem with rovers in the West Gulf Division  
may well be that down there people simply don't listen anywhere other than the  
calling frequency. Might a change in those local operating habits help the  
rovers' situation?
All this said, there is a reasonable case to be made for a single operator  
assisted category in the VHF contests. But I continue to believe that keeping a 
 line between contacts initiated by radio and non-radio means is a wise  
73  -  Jim   K8MR
In a message dated 3/16/2009 8:41:09 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
k5qe at sabinenet.com writes:

Hello to  VHF Contesters.....Below is a proposal that I have forwarded to 
my VUAC  representative for consideration.  Please read the proposal and 
if  you agree, send your comments to that effect to your own VUAC rep.   
You can find your VUAC rep at  
http://www.arrl.org/contests/vuac.html....with one exception that I know  
of.  The West Gulf VUAC rep is Army Curtis,  
AE5P--acurtis at suddenlink.net.  Army is new to this position, but he  will 
be a good rep for our Division. 

I would appreciate it if you  would copy me with your comments.  I have 
gotten some really good  ideas from the posts of others and I am sure 
that will continue.  I  believe that Assisted classes will be a very 
popular with  contesters....certainly the "polls" so far show that to be 
the case.   Please note that I am not trying to take anything away from 
the guys that  want to S&P.  I just want a class where I can maximize the 
number  of contacts that I make. 

73 to all.....Marshall  K5QE


Subject:  Having Assisted  Classes in all ARRL VHF/UHF contests

About one month ago, at the  request of our new Divsion Manager, David 
Woolweaver, K5RAV, I wrote a  "white paper" about VHF/UHF contesting, 
ideas, and practice.  I  submitted my first draft to 15 very well known 
VHF ops and asked for their  comments--in support or in opposition.  I 
received 5 replies that  were very strong positives and one negative.  I 
made a few word  changes and then posted the article on the VHFContesting 
reflector.   That "white paper" is presented as Appendix 1 below.

After posting to  the VHFContesting reflector, I received 26 positive 
responses(some very  strong positives), 4 negatives, and 4 wishy-washy(I 
don't care)  responses.  All the responses from VHF operators in the West 
Gulf  Division were either positive or strongly positive--there were no 
negative  responses at all.  I was expecting this as there is a good 
consensus  on these ideas in our area.  

Via the responses that I received, I  have come to understand that there 
are some ops who believe in what most  would call Search & 
Pounce(S&P)--tuning the bands carefully,  listening for others calling CQ 
or calling CQ yourself, and making  whatever contacts come your way.  The 
people who are into this mode  of operation believe that this method 
produces a contact that is "more  pure", "more valid", or "more valuable" 
than contacts made via schedules.  

I have nothing against the guys that wish to operate in this manner  and 
I believe that they should continue to operate in a manner that they  
enjoy.  However, to those of us that believe in "making as many  contacts 
as possible, on as many different bands as possible, to as many  
different VHF stations as possible, for as long a distance as possible",  
this is just not a very efficient method of operation.  I want to be  
WORKING as many stations as possible during the contest period.  As I  
said in Appendix 1, "In the VHF world, you must have precise control of  
antenna pointing(both directions), frequency, mode, sequencing, and the  
time of the attempt to make a single contact".  Assistance makes this  
possible as opposed to just hoping that you "bump" into another station  
on the bands. 

For these reasons, I would like to propose to the  VUAC the following 
concepts--to be implemented via rule changes in the  Rules for VHF Contests.

1.  The strict definition of what  constitutes a VHF contact must be 
observed.  It is our duty as VHF  operators and Elmers to teach this and 
via word and deed to respect it.  

DISCUSSION:  Some VHF ops have become "sloppy" about what  constitutes a 
VHF contact.  We should have definite and clear rules  stating what 
constitutes a contact and we should "preach" them.  I  operated the ARRL 
DX phone contest last weekend.  I would venture to  say that NONE of 
those contacts, which are routinely accepted practice in  the HF world, 
would be valid VHF contacts.  This is not to criticize  the standards of 
the HF world, it is just to indicate that the two  standards are different. 

2.  VHF contesting should be about  "making the contacts"....making as 
many contacts as possible, on as many  different bands as possible, to as 
many different VHF stations as  possible, for as long a distance as possible.

DISCUSSION:  This  seems self-evident to me. 

3.  All VHF contests should have an  Assisted class of operation.  
Stations in an Assisted class may make  schedules at any time via any 
means--however, the strict definition of  what makes a VHF contact must 
be carefully observed.  

DISCUSSION:  Those ops that want to be Non-Assisted can continue  
operating as they wish, in their own class.  Stations that want to  
maximize their contacts during the event, can enter the Assisted  Class.  
Currently, HF contests have Assisted classes, but in the VHF  world, the 
only "assistance" allowed is on 2.3GHz and above in the EME  contest.  
There are no other Assisted classes in the ARRL's VHF  world.  This seems 
strange to me--that the HF world has plenty of  Assisted classes and we 
have essentially none.  NOTE:  There was  an Assisted class in the EME 
contest for the last couple of years.   Judging by logs sent in, it was 
the most popular class.  However,  this class is scheduled to be deleted. 

Because I believe that  "Contacts are King", how and when "assistance" is 
rendered is just not an  important issue.  If you make a schedule before 
the contest or during  the contest, is just not relevant.....you still 
have to WORK the other  station while observing the strict definition of 
what constitutes a VHF  contact(Tilton's Rule).  Via reflectors and/or 
propagation loggers,  you would know who was on and where they were.  
This would allow you  to work as many of them as possible.  Since 
everyone(except Rovers)  has the Internet these days, there is no 
advantage to one station over  another.  On the other side of that coin, 
it does me no good to know  that W7XYZ/R is in CN88 ready to run the 
bands.  I can't work him  anyway.

Speaking of rovers, how will all this affect them?  The  most common 
complaint that I have heard from rover stations is that they  arrive at 
some new grid, sometimes a rare one, and they cannot "attract"  anyone's 
attention.  So they sit there for an hour or two and work  only a very 
few stations.  I have heard this complaint over and over  again--from 
rovers here in the West Gulf Division as well as from rovers  around the 
country.  It is very frustrating to the rover guys when  this 
happens--and it seems to happen a lot.  An Assisted Rover could  call 
several of the big stations in his area on the cell phone and alert  them 
that "I am in EL28 and ready to run".  This would allow the  rover to 
work as many stations as possible--which is, after all, why he is  out 
there.  As an added bonus, other stations(both Assisted and  
Non-Assisted) would hear these contacts being made.  This would  result 
in additional contacts that would otherwise never occur. 

I  believe that ALL VHF contesting should be Assisted, however, in 
deference  to those that want to do S&P with no outside help, I am 
suggesting  that we have Assisted classes and Non-Assisted classes.  This 
permits  each operator to enter a class of operation that suits his / her 
"modus  operandi". 

Thank you for your attention to this proposal and the ideas  presented 


Marshall P. Williams,  K5QE

APPENDIX 1:  My posting to the VHFContesting  reflector


I have been seriously  contesting in the VHF/UHF world since June 2004.  
Hence, there are  surely guys with a LOT more VHF+ contesting experience 
than I.   However, I have been a VHFer since the late 60's when I became 
really  hooked on Meteor Scatter(MS).  My Elmer there was none other than  
Dick, K0MQS, the holder of 2M WAS #1.  Dick explained the very strict  
definition of what constituted a VHF contact and that all serious VHF  
operators were careful to abide by this convention.  The definition  of 
what constitutes a VHF contact was given to us by Ed Tilton and has  been 
in use for 50+ years.  Every VHF operator that I have ever  known, knows 
this "convention" and abides by it.  I shall call it  "Tilton's Rule".

For those that may not know, the definition of a valid  VHF contact 
requires that BOTH stations receive BOTH calls, some piece of  
information(usually a signal report or grid), and confirmation that the  
information was received(i.e. a ROGER).  Once a contact attempt  begins, 
communication via ANY other means is prohibited.  Doing so,  invalidates 
the contact and you must start again from the  beginning.

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time and effort  station building 
and operating in the hopes of working some good DX on the  VHF/UHF 
bands.  Everyone that I know likes to work "that rare one" on  long range 
tropo, MS, AU, or EME.  As long as the strict definition  for a VHF 
contact was observed, the contact is counted for WAS, DXCC,  VUCC, and 
whatever else is lying around.

Recently, I have come to  understand that there are two different ideas 
of what contesting should be  about.  I will call these two philosophies 
the HF Philosophy and the  VHF Philosophy.  I am not sure that I like 
these two names, but I  cannot think of anything better.  While the names 
indicate the  heritage of the ideas, it is clear that there will be some 
people that  don't fall in either camp.  However, I have observed that 
operators  who were HF ops for many years and then came over to VHF, tend 
to believe  in the HF Philosophy.  Ops that started out in the VHF world 
and VHF  contesting, tend to believe in the VHF Philosophy.  I suspect 
that  this is basically true through out the country.....but maybe  not.

Operators who believe in the HF Philosophy believe that ALL of  
contesting is "Did you find that rare one in Africa??".  Their  emphasis 
is on FINDING stations rather than WORKING stations.   Apparently, in the 
HF world, it is just assumed that if you find one, you  will work him.  
There are rules, upon rules, upon rules that govern  HOW you are allowed 
to find a station to work.

Operators who  believe in what I call the VHF Philosophy believe that 
"You can either  work a station or you can't."  The emphasis here is on 
WORKING  stations rather than FINDING them.  In other words, VHF 
contesting  should be about MAKING the CONTACTS.  In the VHF world, you 
must have  precise control of antenna pointing(both directions), 
frequency, mode,  sequencing, and the time of the attempt to make a 
single contact.  It  often happens in the VHF world, that even though you 
know exactly the call  of a station and exactly where he/she is located, 
you cannot work that  station on a given band.

When I first began VHF contesting, I kept  running into what I will call 
the "Thou Shalt Not" rules in the ARRL  contests.  I could not understand 
what those rules were about--why  they were in there--what purpose did 
they serve?  All these rules  seemed to do was to limit the number of 
contacts that you could make--to  artifically lower your score.  To those 
of us that belive contesting  should be about making the contacts, those 
rules make no sense.  I  have found that most of those rules were "pushed 
up" into the VHF world  from the HF world.  These rules have an HF 
heritage.  I have  talked with several well-known old-time VHFers and 
they agree with me on  this point.

In contrast to the ARRL's horde of "Thou Shalt Not" rules,  the CQ WW VHF 
contest has practically no such rules.  You may call a  station on the 
phone, send him an email, look at a propagation reflector,  whatever--but 
you still have to actually WORK the guy.  Making  contacts in a contest, 
what a novel approach!  There is a reason why  the CQ WW VHF contest has 
become the "Fourth Major".  The lack of  artificial restrictions is 
certainly an important part of this contest's  "charm".

It may be that all this revolves around what the HF ops call  
"Assistance".  I really don't like this word, because it does not  
describe what is going on.  Unfortunately, the word has become a  
multi-valued word.  When some ops use the word assistance, they mean  
help in setting up a schedule during the contest period.  When others  
use the word, they mean that someone is using a telephone during the  
middle of a contact attempt saying, "OK, I am sending O's now, can you  
hear my O's??"  Others use assistance to mean setting up a schedule  
before the contest even starts.  There may be other uses  too.

Apparently, in the HF world, "assistance" vs "no assistance" is a  really 
big deal.  Even though I have been in the VHF world for 40+  years, I had 
never heard the term "assistance" until last year.  This  is why the 
"assistance" vs "no assistance" thing just does not make any  sense to me 
at all.

Every real VHF op knows that you cannot use  "assistance" during a 
contact attempt to confirm parts of  the  contact.  "Everyone knows" that 
this invalidates the contact  attempt.  I have never met a real VHF op 
that engaged in this sort of  thing.  This use of the word assistance is 
just a  non-starter.

Another use of the "assistance" word is to regulate the  making of 
schedules.  Currently, the ARRL rules prohibit making a  schedule during 
the contest(using non-Amateur means).  Since the ARRL  cannot regulate 
conduct before the contest begins, an operator is free to  make as many 
schedules as he/she wishes before the contest starts.  I  have learned 
that in the HF world, you are a "terrorist with a box cutter  on the 
plane" if you make schedules before a contest.

However, it  is extremely common practice in the VHF world to make 
schedules before a  contest--especially on digital MS or EME.  I don't 
understand how  there is any significant difference between setting up a 
schedule before  the contest period begins or after.  You still have to 
actually WORK  the guy.  If you can/do work the other station, the 
contact should  count, just as it does in every other facet of the VHF 
world.  If you  can't work the other station, you can make all the 
schedules that you  want, but you will just be wasting your contest 
time.  Consider this  scenario:  it is perfectly legal for Amateurs to 
set up a regional  40M or 75M net during the contest and use these nets 
to make/coordinate  schedules(such as for digital MS).  But if one were 
to do this via  Ping Jockey, then you are a child molester with bad 
breath and a bad  haircut as far as the ARRL is concerned.  The 
distinction is  meaningless and silly--you can either work the other guy 
or you  cannot.  How or when you make a schedule is not 
relevant.....contacts  are what count.  However, the strict definition of 
a VHF contact MUST  be observed.

Practically everyone believes that the "Rules for VHF  Contesting" are 
not working correctly.  Various well meaning and  thoughtful people are 
making detailed proposals concerning how to fix this  bit of minutia or 
that bit.  I believe that if we don't get the  "First Principles" 
correct, there will never be any hope of "fixing" the  ARRL's VHF contest 

Here is what I and many others in our  area believe are the FIRST PRINCIPLES:

1.  The strict definition  of what constitutes a VHF contact must be 
observed.  It is our duty  as VHF operators and Elmers to teach this and 
via word and deed to respect  it.

2.  VHF contesting should be about "making the  contacts"....making as 
many contacts as possible, on as many different  bands as possible, to as 
many different VHF stations as possible, for as  long a distance as possible.

3.  Hence, ALL VHF should be  "Assisted"(in the ARRL's use of the word).  
Stations may make  schedules at any time via any means--however, the 
strict definition of  what makes a VHF contact must be carefully 
observed.  I realize that  the hidebound HF ops at HQ are going to have 
heart fribrillations over  this idea--because their experience and 
training are rooted in the HF  world and the HF Philosophy.  However, 
what is right for the HF  contests is not necessarily right for VHF 
contests.  A possible  compromise is that ALL VHF contests provide 
"Assisted Classes" of  operation.

Rational discussion and / or ideas are welcomed, preferably  off the 
reflector.  I have tried hard to wordsmith this discussion so  that it 
was not inflamatory or insulting to anyone.  If someone can  show me how 
to better present these ideas, I welcome their helpful  criticism.

Please don't send me flames telling me that:
1)The rules  are the rules and we should just obey them.  Before Little 
Rock,  black Americans were forced into substandard schools, required to 
use  "Black Only" drinking fountains and restrooms, and other such 
indignities,  because that was "The Law".  Of course it was all wrong and 
the laws  were eventually overturned.
2)I am an ARRL hater and just want to see the  ARRL destroyed.  I don't 
hate the ARRL at all.  I am a member of  the ARRL and have been for 
several years.  Like 20% of the ham  population, I get my copy of QST in 
the mailbox every month.

If you  agree with me on this, please stand up and start working towards 
its  acceptance.  If you do not, please try to explain WHY this is the  
wrong concept.  "This is the way the HFers do it and so it must be  
right" and "We have always done things this way, don't rock the boat"  
are not rational reasons or explanations.

Finally, HF ops tend to  believe that HF contesting and VHF contesting 
are the same.  Of  course, most have never operated VHF, but they remain 
very strong in their  beliefs.  Most VHF ops tend to believe that HF and 
VHF contesting ARE  significantly different and hence should / could have 
different concepts  and rules.  Again, I will say that the correct rules 
for HF  contesting and VHF contesting do not necessarily have to be the 

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