[VHFcontesting] FW: ARRL Jan VHF N8RA Single Op LP

Chet S chetsubaccount at snet.net
Mon Jan 22 14:40:57 EST 2018

                    ARRL January VHF Contest

Call: N8RA
Class: Single Op LP
Operating Time (hrs): 23
Radios: SO2R

 Band  QSOs  Mults
    6:   157    26
    2:     74    21
  222:   28    11
Total:  259   58  Total Score = 16,588

Club: Yankee Clipper Contest Club

This contest is always a good chance to renew old acquaintances and make new
ones, and this year was no exception. 

I really wanted to try out the new QTH during this contest so gave priority
this fall to get the towers and some VHF antennas in the air before the wx
turned too nasty. The goal was to have the lower 4 bands up and running. I
did manage to get a 55' tower fully erected with a rotor and permanent
antennas for 6M, 222, and 432. But I ran out of time and weather before
getting to 2M and just had to have something for it, so a single 5el yagi
for 2M went on the mast temporarily. The 432 antenna only has a short piece
of coax coming down the mast and no rotor loop, so 432 was not available
this time. 222 transmit power would be 10 watts because the 222 amplifier
had blown up during last fall's UHF contest and was still not repaired. So
much to do, and so little..ahh, well there's always the next one.

A larger concern before contest time was the S3-4 line noise level on 6M to
the west and southwest during dry weather that I have yet to track down.
This can really ruin your day. A radio's noise blanker is not something that
can be used too well during a contest when surrounded by strong local
stations. However, what saved the day was digging out the old Timewave ANC-4
noise canceller. This device allows easy front panel adjustment of the
amplitude and phase of the signal from a noise pickup antenna and then can
mix it in opposite phase with the main antenna signal before it feeds the
radio antenna input. For a noise antenna I mounted a 3element 6M yagi
vertically on the side of the tower at 15' AGL pointed toward the noise.
Being low and vertically polarized it should pick up the noise much better
than the desired horizontally polarized signals. This worked well enough to
cancel out most of the line noise except when the high main antenna was
pointed right at the noise. With a 16 dB preamp on the main antenna the
noise antenna did not quite have enough pickup to allow full cancellation,
even with some attenuation added to the main antenna's preamp output. A
larger noise antenna or a preamp on it would solve this- argh, not how I
want to spend the resources, but hey, it works! As I write this on Monday,
it is raining of course, and there is no noise at all- thanks Murph!

6M FT8 reflections:
This really changes the nature of the contest by adding another variable to
juggle - when to use it, when to leave it. Often it provided for a good
break to take off the headphones and still work a few more Q's with it while
enjoying a refreshment of choice. Working a handful of grids that were not
heard on SSB or CW was sweet too.

2M could benefit from such a gathering spot as well- occasionally I'd listen
around for FT8 activity but never heard any- maybe everyone listened but no
one talked.

When taking a longer break, I'd let it run so that when I came back it gave
a skimmer like idea of what directions had propagation. 

There were many stations worked on FT8 that were not in my N1MM+ VHF call
history file that I have maintained over many years of VHF contests- so lots
of new blood was on for the contest weekend! (a few of them did not choose
contest mode so exchanges got a bit locked up. Forcing sending a message
containing a 73 could get them to move on to the end). 

There were a number of regulars on this mode that I did not hear any other
time on CW or SSB- maybe there was a challenge going to see what could be
done in the contest using this mode only.

Overall, I am quite happy with the new location. 6M yielded a couple of
quick very weak SSB scatter contacts which was a first for me, and tropo SSB
contacts were made out over 350 miles. 2M grid count was better than
expected with the temporary antenna, and the 10 watts on 222 easily made
some 250-mile contacts.

Chet, N8RA

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