[VHFcontesting] Digital modes in the VHF contests....

Steve Kavanagh sjkavanagh1 at yahoo.ca
Thu Jan 25 22:34:27 EST 2018

I thought I'd add my comments...

This time I was operating from a very modest station in terms of antennas (home!).  Having not got my antennas sorted out after moving, I had an HF inverted vee on 6m, a small Yagi on 2m and various indoor antennas on the higher bands.

I attempted digital QSOs on only 6m and one on 432 (all FT8), not really having enough oomph for any meteor scatter/EME (and way too much noise on 6).  On 6m, I certainly heard a lot more activity on FT8 than on CW and made a number of contacts.  Not all were completed in the minimum time, as QSB of one sort or another required some repeats (sometimes in cases where the signal was loud enough for CW to be copied solidly).  SSB was nearly a dead loss due to the high noise level.  Some of the stations worked on 6m FT8 were calls I had never heard before in a VHF contest, so yes, there was certainly some new blood around and I made more QSOs with FT8 than I could have done without it.  Mind you, there were a couple of serious local rovers, who didn't have FT8 capability, and didn't really have time for it anyway (as has been noted by others).

I described the one 432 FT8 QSO earlier - in short...a QSO was made but it would have been a LOT faster on CW as FT8 had a lot of trouble with the multiple signals typical of tropo/aircraft-scatter.

There was a certain amount of confusion regarding contest mode or not...I was able to quickly switch on the fly (click off the contest mode box and re-generate the messages) so the QSOs went moderately smoothly.  The exchange is there...it's just a bit slower than with contest mode on, which was NOT much of a factor with my setup!

I think we ought to just see how things pan out and not make any rule changes.  FT8 worked for me this time due to the high noise, poor antenna and complete lack of propagation.  JT65A might have worked better, for the same reasons, but I saw no sign of activity.  In a serious sporadic opening I'd rather run SSB or CW and work 'em faster.  In my (up to now) rover vehicle there really isn't room for a computer, let alone the time for FT8 QSOs (late at night I need to sleep in order to be able to drive the next day!).  For some situations it will be useful and in others it won't be.  Hopefully the novelty of FT8 will wear off and people will remember than when signals are decent (and for people who aren't interested in digital modes!), CW and SSB will work better and spend much of their time on the traditional modes.

Steve VE3SMA

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