Archive for April, 2012

New ARRL VHF+ Contest Categories (FM and SO3B) Effective Jan 2013

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Our ARRL VUAC Central Division Rep. is W9GKA Kevin.  This morning, Kevin sent out email to various reflectors concerning brand-new rule changes for ARRL V/UHF Contests.  What follows is W9GKA’s words.
”  The VUAC has been considering several ideas which flowed from comments received by contesters.  VUAC made various recommendations in January, 2012, which can be found at:

The ARRL Programs and Services Committee has now approved rule changes for ARRL VHF+ contests effective beginning in January, 2013 for the following:

— to create a Single-Op FM-only category (100 W max, 50/144/222/440 MHz).
— a three-band Single-Op category (100 W PEP on 50 and 144 MHz, 50 W PEP on 432 MHz).

These changes will apply to the January, June and September contests, beginning with the 2013 January VHF Sweepstakes.  A short summary of the rules changes can be found in the ARRL contest update:

Please feel free to provide any feedback you may have on these rules changes and any other items that you feel would contribute to VHF contesting.”  (W9GKA’s email is kkaufhold (at) yahoo (dot) com)

VUAC Central Division Representative

A few thoughts from KC9BQA follow…
You will notice that I rarely pass along traffic like this at   After having visited reflectors and ham websites that have plenty of bitching and moaning, I wanted this space to be an irritation-free zone.  Seems that just about any time rules changes get discussed in ham radio contesting, it’s a big headache filled with all sorts of melodrama.  (Which I am perfectly capable of contributing to, if I let myself, LOL)
All I’m saying is that if you have comments, share them with W9GKA.  He’s asked for the feedback.  I have not.

As always, what I ask for is increased participation in any aspect of VHF/UHF ham operation.  Whether it’s a contest, general ragchewing, DX’ing, you name it.   Getting more signals on the air has always been the focus at
Do I think these rule changes will help V/U contesting?  Yes, I think so, and more importantly I hope they do.  For years and years now, we’ve had these HF + V/UHF all-bands-in-one-box rigs that are dying to be used on 6m, 2m, 70cm.  Many who enjoy VHF contesting have been eagerly waiting for an influx of new operators who will try something different.  The SO3B category seems tailor-made for the thousands of hams who have HF + V/UHF rigs.
As for the Single-Op FM-only category, that’s something I’ve tried to promote for years now.  Long-time readers of my emails know I didn’t start this blog until April, 2009.  Prior to that, I worked hard to encourage FM’ers to try a V/UHF contest.  In 2009, we had great success in the southern WI area.  In 2010 and beyond, these FM’ers largely disappeared.  Some of them migrated over to the SSB side, which is what I was hoping would happen anyway.  Either way, I couldn’t keep spending dozens of hours before contests, trying to motivate casual, FM-only contesters.  I can honestly say I’m glad so many gave it a try.
I just hope the shack-on-a-belt hams will realize that to get the most out of a VHF contest experience, you need to move beyond the HT and rubber duck.  Do you need stacked horizontal beams up 100′?  Lord no.  I’d say less than 10% of V/UHF contesters have that type of station.  But to make enough contacts to keep your interest alive, strive for at least 25-100w out, into a good external antenna, fed with lower-loss coax, up as high as you can safely install it.  And yes, we certainly hope you will move forward, improve your station and use horizontally-polarized yagis on SSB/CW.  This way, you will become capable of working DX, even on flat bands, and surely in the occasional band openings.

I would like to thank the VUAC for working toward these new rules.   I know it can be a thankless job.

Quick V/UHF Contest Calendar and VHF Contesting School Articles

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

   8am Thur.
   No time to do a proper job of it right now, but here’s a reminder to myself to promote the busy summer VHF/UHF contest calendar.  Also put up the links to the VHF Contesting School articles.   Plus that’s right, ARRL has just announced two new categories for V/U contesters, starting with the January 2013 contest.  That’s a lot to cover, whew. 

   2012 ARRL Multi-Band Contests (All bands from 50 MHz on up thru 2m, 222, 432, and into the microwaves) are on the weekends of:
   June 8-9
   Sept 8-9
   ARRL UHF Contest (All bands from 222 and 432 MHz on up thru the microwaves)
  Aug. 4-5
   CQ WW VHF  (Fun contest with the bread-and-butter VHF bands of 6m and 2m only)
   July 21-22.   

   Want to know a lot more about V/UHF contesting?   I did, too, when I first got on in the summer of 2003.  It was hard to find this info, so I wrote these articles sharing my experience.  I am constantly amazed that there aren’t hundreds more VHF contesters.  For me, it’s still the single-most exciting time to be on the V/U bands.  
    As I said above, I’ve written a series of articles called VHF Contesting School.  They are thorough.  It may be more than a total newbie will want to read thru.  That’s fine, skim thru the articles, and take what you need.   Don’t worry about every last detail.  You can be a casual contester, and have fun on your terms.   VHF Contesting is much more laid back than on HF.  At least in the Midwest, there’s plenty of room to operate, plus it’s not so much about competition, but more about having fun and enjoying lots of activity.   If you want more contesters on the bands, do what you can to spread the word.   Plus tell those hams with lousy QTH’s to consider becoming rovers or hilltoppers.  
    I firmly believe that if the 700,000 + hams in USA and Canada knew more about what they can *really* do on VHF and UHF, we’d have several thousand new enthusiasts within a year or two.  The key is in spreading the word.   Please remember you are always welcome to share the VHF Contesting School articles with hams everywhere. 

    These links are in order from a basic introduction, to antennas, to what bands and frequencies to use, and so on.   VHF Contesting School — Introduction.    Antennas – The Most Important Part of Your V/UHF Station.    What Bands and Frequencies to Use.     How to Log a V/UHF Contest.    Helpful Hints — Being a Smarter Operator.    Go Roving!   Put the Antennas and Rigs in the Mobile.    More Detailed Rover Info.    Rules and Scoring. 

    I hope to reorganize this post over the weekend.  For now, it will have to do.

432 Sprint Report 19 Q’s and Tough Conditions

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

   7:00am Thur. 

   “Propagation was sooooo bad last night.”  
   “How bad was it?”  

   Don’t know if any of you remember the old Match Game daytime game show.  I admit to always getting a laugh out of that, when I was home sick from school in the 70’s.  Go Gene Rayburn and Richard Dawson.  🙂   

    This was an interesting sprint.  Many came out to play.  The chat was full of stations that were active, and this really helped pass the time.  (I have to remind myself sometime to talk about how using this chat in the ARRL multi-band contests is a no-no.)  I was very glad for the strong activity levels, because especially off to our east, band conditions were just dismal.  At first, I thought my 432 had seriously degraded over the winter.  But the longer I kept at it, and the more I read other guys’ comments in the chat, I realized this was just a night with stinko prop.  Which is especially tough on 432, because the antennas are pointy to begin with.  
     Here’s my 19 contacts.  I can think of at least 3-7 contacts I missed, so honestly, I could have equaled my total from last week on 222.  Oh yeah, guess I didn’t mention this but on 222 I have a pair of 16 el K1FO’s up 110′ and 100w.  On 432, it’s a pair of 25 el K1FO’s up 110′ and 100w.  

N9DG          EN53bj
W9GA         EN53we
WB0YWW   EN22uk
WV9E         EN43jv
K9JK/R        EN61ax
W9SZ/P      EN50xf
K0NY         EN44db
WB9TFH     EN53xa
KY9E          EN53vd
K9EA          EN71le
N8DJB        EN81fj
NE8I/R       EN73ra
K8JA          EN82ln
W8BYA      EN70jt
K9MRI        EN70tu
K9JK/R       EN51xx
K9JK/R       EN52xa
W9RM        EN52rb
N9LB         EN52hv

     Apologies to missing KO9A, K8GDT, K8TQK, K8MM, W9WZJ and probably a few others I’m not remembering right now. 

     As you can tell by the log, I spent lots of time at the start looking SW, W and NW.  Conditions in that direction were definitely somewhat better.  Not great, but better than the crud to the east.  Once I was reasonably convinced I’d worked everyone out west that was on, I spent more time looking east, because that’s where the activity really was.  By 9:30-9:45, I was getting tired, so I called it a night.  In this sprint, there was good activity even up to the 11pm closing bell in the eastern time zone.  

    Remember that there are two Spring Sprints left. 
   1)  Microwave is on Sat. morning, May 5th, from 6am-1pm in your local time zone.  All bands 900 MHz and above are in play and many use 144.260 in this part of the world to help liasion/coordinate.   If there are other liasion freqs. that I don’t know about, someone please advise. 
   2)  6m or 50 MHz sprint on Sat. evening, May 12th, from 2300Z until 0300Z on Sun. May 13th.  This means 6-10pm in the central time zone.  The reason UTC time is used in only the 6m sprint is to get everyone across the country all on at the same time.  There’s a good chance for sporadic E skip openings on 6m in May, which would mean DX.   Even if the band doesn’t open up to others parts of the US, you should still get on, and make plenty of “groundwave” contacts out to 100, 200, 300 miles on 6. 

   Click here for the post with all the sprints info, including a link to the sponsor’s website and full rules.

Last Night’s 144.240 and 144.252 Net Reports

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

   6:45am central — Thur.

   K8TQK is now the earlier of our two nets.  Bob gets on 144.252 (he has a bad noise problem right on his old freq. of 144.250) at 0030Z/8:30pm eastern.  He’s located in EM89je (south-central OH) and has true 400+ mile range, even with flat bands.  
Last night was slower on 2m because of poor band conditions and the 432 sprint.
    Bob’s 11 check-ins were:  WB8AUK EN80;  K8GDT and NF8O EN91;  AC3L/M FN00;  W2UAD FN13;  VE3ZV EN92;  W8WG EM89;  N1GC EM95;  K4XXX EM77;  N4PPG EM76 and WA4ZKO EM78. 

    WB9LYH in EN54cl (middle of WI) was back on with the 144.240 net last night.  Remember that the .240 net is now on summer hours, which means we will start at 0100Z/8pm central until at least early October.  
    WB9LYH also has a big station with great range.  Makes Q’s beyond 350-400 miles to other well-equipped stations, even with flat bands.  Please remember that both our net controls enjoy and welcome DX check-ins.  Help us spread the word in a multi-state area surrounding WI and OH.  With summer’s warmth will come some nights with enhanced conditions.  Can’t wait. 

    Mark’s 7 check-ins included two pleasant surprises:  KC9VFO is now on 2m SSB, from EN43, Sparta, WI.  Welcome aboard, Jeff.  Also heard from N9OLT EN64;  KC9BQA EN63;  N9NYA and WV9E EN43;  KG0SJ EN22 and last night’s DX treat was definitely WB0ULX Lloyd in EN04, Huron, SD.  Mark reported Lloyd was 5×6, with average conditions.   It’s great to hear WB0ULX back on, now that his bowling season is over, and Lloyd plans to get on the air more often from east-central SD. 

    Looking ahead, here’s the 144.240 net control schedule:
    May 2nd and May 9th — WB9LYH expects to be available.
    May 16th, 23rd and 30th — I will probably need to pinch hit. 
    June — WB9LYH hopes that his work schedule will ease up and he will have lots of time to play radio in June. 

    As always, we update the net control schedules right here on the website.  Pays to check on things every Tuesday or  Wed. 


Wed. Long-Range Nets + 432 MHz Sprint

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

   3:45pm Tuesday —

   Going to be busy tomorrow night.  Let’s run down what I know.
   1)  K8TQK will be ON with his 144.252 net from EM89je, far south-central OH.  Bob starts at 0030Z or 8:30pm eastern by looking north, and then goes clockwise (NE, E, SE, S, SW, W and NW) over the next hour or so.   Bob will also be playing in the 432 MHz Spring Sprint, so many of you may get 2 contacts with Bob, instead of the usual one.  Have your 432 hooked up tomorrow night, get on and call CQ.  Let others know you are out there.  The sprint runs from 7pm until 11pm in your local time zone. 
   2)  WB9LYH hopes to be home in time for the 144.240 net.  He may be a little late, so be flexible.   The typical start time is 0100Z/or 8pm central.   Mark is in EN54cl, middle of WI.  He also starts out looking NE, then E, SE, S, SW, W and NW and N over the next hour or so.   Mark does not have 432, so he will be concentrating solely on the weekly 2m net. 
   3)  I hope to be on for the 432 sprint, right at 7pm and probably until 9:30-10pm or whenever activity dies down.  There’s a chance of thunderstorms tomorrow night, and if that happens, I play it safe and unhook everything.

KC9BQA 222 Spring Sprint Report — 25 Q’s in 17 Grids

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

5:45pm Wed.
Want to get this fun sprint report posted before I have to run.
Remember that both the 144.240 and 144.252 nets are OFF tonight.  K8TQK’s away, WB9LYH has a balky rotor and I won’t be around.

Last night’s 222 Sprint had great activity from MI and OH.  I was honestly busy to my east for an hour and a half straight.  It wasn’t that conditions were anything special; but there sure were a lot of stations on, including several I can’t recall ever working in any contest, going back to when I got on the air in late 2003/early 2004.
In WI and NE ILL, there were also about 10 stations on.
I concentrated on the SW, W, and NW after 8:30pm.  Called CQ frequently, and heard nobody.  Farthest west I got was middle of WI.  N0AKC was CQ’ing from EN44 and quite loud, but he didn’t hear us.  By 9:30, my eyes were closing and I called it a night.  I seldom work more than 2-3 new contacts in the last hour of sprints.

Here’s my log.  I don’t have mileages; suppose I could look them up manually on sometime.
W9RM          0005       EN52rb
K9JK/R        0006       EN52xa
WB8BZK/R  0008       EN62ad
KO9A            0009       EN52xc
N9LB            0012        EN52hv
ND9Z            0015        EN54ug
N8PUM        0020       EN66dl
W9GA           0025        EN53we
N8DJB          0037       EN81fj
VE3ZV           0044       EN92vw
K8MM           0045       EN83
KF8QL          0046        EN72fu
N9DG            0048       EN53bj
K9TM            0049       EN81dr
K8GDT         0054        EN91bf
K8DIO          0059        EN91gf
WB8AUK     0100        EN80or
W8MIL         0101        EN74ic
WD8USA      0112        EN73
K8MD           0114         EN82bq
N8IEZ           0115         EN82mm
N9YK             0117        EN71no
K9JK/R        0122        EN51xx
WB8BZK/R  0131        EN52xc
KB0PE           0144       EM48ts

Some pleasant surprises — KB0PE was whisper quiet from EM48 St. Louis area.  Made the Q because my 222 is so wonderfully quiet.  Also VE3ZV from EN92 and N8PUM from up in EN66.  At one time, I heard no less than 7 different stations off to my east on/near 222.100.  It wasn’t that conditions were that special, most of the stations were quiet.  But boy is it fun to know there’s that much interest.
Missed connections… heard WA8RJF and NE8I/R multiple times but couldn’t get thru.  N0AKC must not have been hearing very well.  Later learned NG9R was on from EN40, with low antenna, low power and CW.  Would have liked to work Danny.   W9SZ got on late, as he usually does.  He drives to a high spot in central IL (EN50) and ops /P.   Afraid Zach missed most of the party last night — it got very slow after 9-9:30pm central time.

The 432 MHz sprint is next Wed. night, from 7-11pm again.  I expect to be on, and I hope each of you will get on, too.  Please remember that V/UHF contests are way more casual and friendly than what you might hear on HF.  I’d say the #1 misconception most hams have is that you somehow have to be an “expert” or “big gun” to participate in a contest.  NONSENSE.  Come as you are, and help us out.  Most V/U contests (at least in the Midwest) have plenty of room on the band for you to operate.
Microwave sprint (900 MHz and higher) is Sat. morning, May 5th, 6am-1pm.
6 Meter sprint (50 MHz) is Sat. evening, May 12th, from 2300Z-0300Z.  Or 6-10pm in central time zone.  Pray for sporadic Eskip.   At the same time, realize that you can make groundwave contacts out to  several hundred miles on 6 meters, just like we do on 144 MHz, even if there’s no skip or band enhancement.  (yes, longer yagis higher up do best).   So I hope many get on for the 6m sprint, regardless of whether the band is “hot” or not.
Full sprint rules and a link to the sponsor’s website is here:

Update on Wed. Nets. Both nets will be OFF Wed. April 18th

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

   9:30pm Monday  — 
  We had some very gusty winds all day in the Upper Midwest.  WB9LYH has just emailed me to say that something’s wrong with his rotor and it will only go about 1/4 turn.  He hopes to be able to fix it this weekend, but he will be OFF the air this Wed.   I would take the net but I have other plans.   No 144.240 net Wed. night, April 18th. 
   As mentioned two posts below, K8TQK will be gone for a few days so his 144.252 net will also be OFF this Wed.
   K8TQK emailed to say he looks forward to operating both his 144.252 net and the 432 MHz Spring Sprint on Wed., Apr. 25th.  Plan on that.

222 MHz Sprint is Tuesday, April 17. (432 MHz is on Wed., April 25)

Monday, April 16th, 2012

6pm Monday —

222 MHz is a great band.  Propagation-wise, it’s usually a few S-units louder than 2m, plus it tends to have lower noise, and the beamwidths with high-gain yagis aren’t quite as sharp as they get on 432 and higher bands.   In fact, 222 is my favorite V/UHF band, aside from 6 meters.  I wish every VHF’er would get on 222.
What are the drawbacks to 222?  It’s not easy to find the gear to get on the SSB/CW side, where the DX can be found.  There are precious few commercially available rigs for 222 MHz SSB/CW.  Most ops use transverters, such as those from DEMI (DownEast Microwave) and other manufacturers.   Use Google and do some digging for 222 MHz transverters.
A commercially-available option is the vintage Yaesu FT-736R or FT-726R’s  (You have to make sure those rigs have the optional 222 band module installed).  I use a 736R and have been pleased.  (I can tell you the pair of 16 element yagis up 105′ makes way more difference than the rig, though!)  Icom made the single-band 375H and 375A rigs for a time, but those are extremely scarce and have become crazy expensive, if you somehow find one.   Getting back to transverters, purists will tell you that transverters have more sensitivity and they’re right.  You decide which way to go.
The main message is that most avid V/UHF’ers tend to get gear for 222.  There can be decent activity in contests or major band openings.  In a few parts of the country, there’s activity on/near the call frequency of 222.100 on Tuesday nights.  Back 20-30 years ago, VHF’ers had an informal protocol.  Monday was 2m night, Tuesday was for 222 and Wednesday was for 432.  The spring and fall sprints still follow that tradition.
I sure hope to be on 222 tomorrow night.  I see no conflicts right now, weather or otherwise.  The sprint runs from 7-11pm in your local time zone.
Please help spread the word about the Spring VHF Sprints.    For a complete schedule, full rules and a link to the sponsor’s website, go here:

AM Mode Nets I’ve Just Learned About

Friday, April 13th, 2012

9pm Thursday —
I’m just the messenger here.  All I know about AM mode is that I listen to the Brewers, Packers, Bucks and Badgers on AM radios.  🙂
All the same, if this info helps some hams have more fun on VHF, then it’s a good thing.

KC9CUK would like hams to know about the brand-new “2M AM Nostalgia Net”.  The net is called every Tuesday at 7PM central, on 144.950.  Yes, 144.950.
KC9CUK’s location is EN52qh, Marengo, IL.  This is a good hour NW of Chicago.  The antenna is a vertical up 113′.  I have no idea how far AM gets out, but they did have 13 check-ins Tuesday night.

When I was talking about this AM net last night, I learned about another AM option on 2m.  This one is more informal.  You want to tune to 144.120 (yes, 144.120) and look toward the Williams Bay, WI area starting about 8pm central.  This is about an hour SW of Milwaukee.   More often than not, K9KEU in EN52ro is the net control and he says,  “I am on probably 4 nights a week.  I call CQ at 8:00pm and hang round till about 8:30 if no activity.  Maybe 3 nights per week get a qso or roundtable.  If interested stations contact me, I will be sure to point the beam in their direction for a CQ.  Right now we have stations in Whitewater and the Madison area that are active.  Also N9RK in Delavan.  With the distribution of stations I sometimes get lazy and just leave my beam northwest.  It seems like my AM range is 50-60 miles.”

Again, I’m just the messenger here.  If AM mode interests you, here’s two options.   Any questions, contact the net controls; I’m sure they’d be happy to help.

April 11th Net Reports KC9BQA 14 Check-Ins and K8TQK 13

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

   6:45 am Thur.

   Last night was the start of our “summer hours” with the 144.240 net out of WI.   We now start at 0100Z/8pm central until at least October.  This only affects the 144.240 net. 
   Would also like everyone to know that WB9LYH should be back at the mic for April 18th and beyond.  Mark is in EN54cl, right in the geographcial center of WI.  Stacked 17B2’s and 500w from a ridgetop location.   I’ve got a decent station and Mark works at least 100-150 miles farther than I usually can.  Hearing WB9LYH copy stations better than I could was part of the reason why he evolved into the 144.240 net control, back a few years ago.  Very grateful for stations like his and K8TQK’s helping to expand our reach.   Remember that both our net controls enjoy DX check-ins and exploring the propagation limits. 

     K8TQK in EM89je has now been on 144.252 for about 3-4 weeks, due to a noise problem right on .250.  Bob’s start time is 0030Z/8:30pm eastern. 
    Last night, K8TQK’s 13 check-ins were:  KD8ORN, KC8QDQ, KD8DJE and W8WG EM89;  NF8O and K8GDT EN91;  K4XXX EM97;  N1GC EM95;  WB8AUK EN80;  K9LQZ EM68;  WA4REE EM65;  KD8PA EN72 and KC9CLM EN52. 

    I had the 144.240 net last night and my 14 check-ins were:  KD8PA EN72;  W8MIL EN74;  K8GDT EN91;  WB8AUK EN80;  KC8ZJL EN71;  N9OLT EN64;  N9NDP EN62;  N9TF and KC9CLM EN52;  K9CCL EN61;  KY9E, WB9TFH and KC9GMF EN53 and K0SIX EN35.  Conditions were OK, and maybe improved a little bit toward the end.  K0SIX in EN35 was up to S5 at times. 

    I hope to have a few other posts later today or tomorrow.  Here’s my quick topic list.
  1)  Discuss the 2m sprint and look ahead to the 222 sprint on Tues. April 17th and the 432 sprint on Wed. April 25th.  Refer readers to the March 20th post here for full sprint details. 
  2)  Continue to refer readers to KA1ZE’s daily VHF/UHF emails.  By now this has evolved into a mini-magazine, 7 days a week.  Truly an amazing effort, a real must-see.  His archived newsletters are now directly available at   The past two days have had many sprint reports from all across the country.  Remember it’s not just about reading about VHF, it’s about getting on the air.  Remind folks of the 144.205 morning group, which by now has spread to all parts of the USA. 
   3)  Put up some sort of early summer contest calendar.  June and Sept. ARRL (all-bands 50 MHz and up).  July CQ WW VHF (50 and 144 MHz only), and Aug. UHF  (all bands 222 MHz and higher)
   4)  Mention a few AM mode nets on 144 MHz that I’ve recently learned about.