[VHFcontesting] The impact of the digital modes on the January VHF Contest and some suggestions on dealing with those impacts

George Fremin geoiii at kkn.net
Sat Feb 6 21:54:28 EST 2021

Hello fellow VHF contesters. 

I have only been loosely following this thread recently.   I have not been reading many of the messages to this list for a few years now so I may not be fully up on what all the thoughts have been.  I think I have some idea of a few folks feelings on this list and I have been having similar conversations with a few other VHF and HF ops I know. 

The last year or two of VHF contests that I have operated have me questioning if I want to continue to put time and effort into doing contests on or for that matter even spending much time on these bands in general.  In addition to the VHF contesting I do, I do a lot of HF contests.  I choose not to do any digital contests.  I have never found them to be very interesting to me.  I enjoy the challenge of using my ears and brain to copy CW and voice signals.  I have spent a large portion of my life now learning how to do this pretty well.  Letting some machine do that for me takes removes the skill that I have worked so hard acquire.  As a result I do not find the digital modes to be that much fun. 

I am not sure what the answer is here - I think trying to do mixed modes will be a mess - although it would help my QSO totals. 

Back 10 years or more ago I posted a message to this list where I stated that I was not going to operate using digital modes - of course this was when it was just MSK or maybe some EME - and I held to that - and since very few of the folks and none of the casual folks were doing those modes it did not affect my scores too much.  We have seen the rise in EME but the MSK totals seem about the same but the big change has been FT8 - and that has become the mode that everyone seem to have living on these days.  And as others have noted that has really hurt contact rates and made it hard to move folks between bands.  So in the last few contests I have done more and more digital when I am at home.  I have been doing the Sep and Jan contests as a rover with my girlfriend using her call - and we have not do any digital from the car but we can tell that is hiring our score as more and more folks seem to be stuck on FT8.  

As I stated above this all has me wondering why I am on these bands - since most of the activity is on a mode I do not enjoy. 
One of my thoughts has been that I will go back to the way I used to do it before and only do SSB and CW going forward and let whatever I miss on the digital modes go by the wayside.  I have no interest in putting up a large EME array on any bands - since that would just mean more digital contacts - and for me that is no fun.  So I might do the contests in this way going forward - SSB/CW only and temper my expectiaons on my scores and likely never ‘winning’ these contests ever again.  One of my long term goals was to make over 2000 contacts on 6m in the June contest.  But it has become clear to me that this is likely not possible any longer due to the fact that so many casual folks stick to FT8 even when the band is wide open and the rate I just not there.  So be it.  I have to do what is fun for me.  Or maybe I just get rid of all the VHF stuff while the getting is good and move on.   I am still unsure. 

One thing I was wondering about for the the past few weeks was how is the playing out in Europe.  So today I wrote to a German ham that I know has done VHF contests and he replied.  I what he said interesting: 

The major VHF+ contests over here (1st weekend of March [2m+], June
[23cm+], July [2m+], September [2m only], October [70cm+] and November
[2m CW only]) are still unchanged, only allowing SSB and CW contacts,
and I don't see that changing anytime soon. On 2m, the top stations
will routinely work more than 1000 QSOs. I don't think the big guns are
interested in using FT8, and they're the ones sitting in the contest
committees of the various clubs, where rules could be changed.

That said, activity on VHF *outside* contests is predominantly FT8 (or
the various meteorscatter digital modes) nowadays, but in general I
guess that FT8 has overall increased non-contest activity, so maybe
that's not such a bad thing.

Maybe trip to Europe for some VHF contests would be fun for me. 

I still do not know what do so here in the North America - maybe we could make one of the VHF contests SSB/CW only and see how that goes?
That seems like it would be fun.  And it would be something different - and that is a good thing in my book - why do they all have to be the same?
I am sure there are others that will disagree. 


George Fremin III

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