VHF Contest School — Logging

     Let’s discuss how you properly log a VHF/UHF contest.    I’ll get to that but first, let me clear up a potential misconception or two.
   1)  You do not have to be an ARRL member to get involved in ARRL contests.
   2)  You do not have to officially submit a log to ARRL to get on the air and enjoy contesting.
   3)  You may simply “hand out points” on an informal basis.   This is better than nothing. 

    Having said that, I do keep logs, and submit my score to ARRL.   I keep the logs because they are fun to go through after the contest is done.   I submit because I want the contest sponsor to know they had participation.   I also submit to show the nation that contesting is alive and well in the Midwest.   Finally, having cracked Top 10 in the USA a few times for my category (Single-Op, Low Power), I do enjoy a nice certificate!

    Since this is geared toward beginners, do paper logging if you want.   I did this for some years.   I realize most have a favorite logging program or two.   I’m no expert on them.   I now use N3FJP for logging.   There are others.   If you have a  favorite, tell me about it and help others make their choice.   Or Google VHF Contest Logging Software (or Programs) and see what comes up.    Some choices that might come up would include N1MM, Writelog, Roverlog (lot of guys say works fine for fixed stations, too).    There are many options.  

    But if you’re a beginner, a paper log is fine.    Stick with the basics for now.

   The format is:

  You also want to note the calendar day, but you don’t have to write that down for every contact, just keep track of when you switch over to a new day.   If you use a logging program, make sure it’s entering the correct date.

   BAND means either “50” (6 meters), “144” (2 meters), “222” (1.25 meters) or “432” (70 cm)  There are bands beyond 432 that are used in contests, such as 902, 1296.  Don’t know of any beginners that are on the microwaves, though.     Even if you make FM contacts on say 52.525, 146.xx, 223.5 or 446.0 in a contest, you still want to log those bands as “50”, “144”, “222” and “432”   Trust me on that.   The robot at ARRL that processes log submissions will reject anything
but those numbers.   Worry about submitting to ARRL after the contest.    If you’re confused, often a friendly veteran can walk you through the process.   You have up to 30 days after the contest, so deal with submitting the log later.  
   MODE means either “PH” for phone (any voice, SSB or FM) or “CW”.   Those are the two choices. 
   TIME means the minute you exchanged grid squares and rogers.   My understanding is being off 1 or 2 minutes is OK, but be accurate anyway.   UTC time is what ARRL will want to see.   You can convert after the contest, if need be.  Or just do UTC time and save a step later.   In central time zone, UTC is 6 hours ahead of us in the winter and 5 hours ahead after we turn the clocks ahead in spring.    For instance, the Jan ARRL VHF Sweepstakes starts at 1:00pm
central time Jan 23, 2010.   This would be 1900 in UTC time.
    Also remember that when using UTC time, you move to a new day at 6pm in the evening local time.  Why?  6pm central time + 6 hours for UTC = 0000 in UTC time.  That’s why the ARRL website says the contest ends at 0400Z on Monday, Jan. 25, 2010.   It’s really 10pm central time Sunday night.  
    If you have a total block with UTC time, just enter local time and get help with adjustments later.  Don’t let details get in the way of you contesting.  Everybody has to start somewhere.  
   CALLSIGN  means the callsign of the station you worked.  Take the time to get it right.   You will hear a lot of phonetics being used in VHF contests.   This is for the sake of accuracy.   Avoid busted calls as much as possible. 
    If you work a rover station, then you need to add /R to their call.   Meaning if you work me at home, I am KC9BQA for your log.   If I were out roving, then I’d be “KC9BQA/R”.   Make sure you log rovers with the “/R”.   If you are out roving, then sign with the /R, too.   
    (Again, I will devote a separate post to explaining roving)

   GRID WORKED — Enter the Maidenhead Grid Square for the station you just worked.   Exchanging callsigns, grid squares and rogers for that information is all you need for a valid VHF contest QSO.   Don’t enter your own grid square, enter the one for the station you just worked.   
    If you want to know your grid square right now, do this:  Go to www.qrz.com.   Enter your own callsign in the top left.  Once you see your own info on the next page, click where it says “click for more detail”.   10 lines down it will show your grid square.   Just use the EN63/53/62/52, whatever.  Don’t worry about the extra 2 small letters at the end.  Those are there to narrow down your location to a pinpoint.  But they aren’t important for this contest, or for a beginner.
     Click on http://www.oema.us/files/Amateur_Radio_US_Grid_Square_Map.pdf  for a colorful grid map.  If you want to do further study, Google Maidenhead Grid Squares

    If you keep track (whether on paper or a computer logging program) of  BAND, MODE, TIME, CALLSIGN and GRID for each contact you make in a VHF contest, you will be all set to submit your log, once the contest is done.
    For now, let’s not worry about log submission.  That’s all post-game stuff.  You have up to 30 days to submit your log, so it’s not an immediate concern.

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