[VHFcontesting] FT8 during the January Contest

Chet S chetsubaccount at snet.net
Wed Jan 24 16:44:37 EST 2018

Looked at my log today to evaluate the effects of FT8, which I only used on

Of the 7 new grids FT-8 provided, I did not hear any other SSB or CW from 4
of those grids on 6M, in other words, 4 were unique new grids for me because
of FT8. 

My submitted score is 16,588.

If I take out all the FT8 QSOs and grids, my score becomes 11,577. 

Supposing that I would have worked half of those FT8 stations with 3 of the
new grids on SSB anyway, my score would have been, 13,878, again
significantly lower than my final 16,588. 

The weakest new grid FT8 signal was tropo at -14 dB and 365 miles distant. 
The strongest new grid FT8 signal was Es at +1 dB and 1040 miles- a VO1 who
called me at the end of another QSO I had in progress. 

I went to FT8 when 6 and 2 were getting milked out on SSB, and I usually
stayed there at least 30 minutes. 
The QSO rate during those periods was from 16 to 20/ hour, so yes, about 3
minutes per QSO, but a far better rate than staying on SSB at those times. 

In case you missed my earlier observations in my summary: 

FT8 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.

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

When taking a longer break, I'd let it monitor so that when I came back it
gave a skimmer like idea of what directions had propagation and if any new
stations were now there. 

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 with FT8 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 VHF contest regulars on this mode that I did not hear
at 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.

With every contest it is well to ask yourself:
What did I learn about my station and my operating?
What things are changing in the future?
What will I do to adapt and improve next time?
(e.g.- my current setup was very cumbersome to switch radio control and PTT
between WSJT-X and N1MM+. This can be made much better)

Chet, N8RA

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