Gear Up for the ARRL June VHF QSO Party
Lots of RF will be generated on 6 meters and up the weekend of June 11-12 during the 2011 ARRL June VHF QSO Party. While many amateurs think of the VHF+ bands as a “local” band for public service, emergency communications or a bit of fun on FM repeaters, weak-signal VHF+ enthusiasts know better. Even with a modest station, it’s possible to work hundreds, or even thousands of miles on the VHF bands during a good opening.
ARRL Contest Branch Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X, is a big VHF enthusiast. “In more than 25 years of Amateur Radio, weak-signal work on 6 and 2 meters remains the most fun and intriguing activity I do,” he said. “There is nothing like a good VHF opening. With its fun and interesting propagation characteristics like sporadic-E, tropospheric ducting, aurora and even meteor scatter and moonbounce, VHF offers QSO opportunities that HF can never satisfy.”
Kutzko said the contest weekend is a great time to try 6 or 2 meters: “The June VHF QSO Party occurs at the beginning of the summer sporadic-E season, which can produce intense openings on 6 meters, and in some cases, up to 2 meters. This past weekend saw solid sporadic-E openings on 6 meters from New England to Florida and from Texas to the West Coast. Several stations from the Caribbean were also heard on 6 meters this Memorial Day. With the summer sporadic-E season heating up, the June VHF QSO Party promises to be a great weekend of excitement on the VHF+ bands. ”
Getting on the VHF bands is easy. While there will be some contest activity on FM simplex (especially near large population centers), most long-distance VHF+ QSOs are conducted on CW or SSB -- that means horizontally polarized antennas. You will also need a radio that can transmit in those modes. Most of the newer HF transceivers have 6 meters built in, and several also come with 2 meters and 70 centimeters.
“A dipole on 6 meters will work quite well during a decent opening,” Kutzko said. “They’re easy to make and less than 10 feet long. Throw it up in a tree as high as you can and you’ll be in business. For 2 meters and 70 cm, a horizontal loop will work nicely for SSB and CW contacts.” You can find plans for simple VHF antennas at the Technical Information Service area of the ARRL website, in the “Antennas” chapter of the ARRL Handbook, or in the “VHF and UHF Antenna Systems” chapter of the ARRL Antenna Book.
Because VHF antennas are generally smaller than their HF counterparts, Kutzko said that portable operation is simple: “You can operate from your favorite hilltop, camp site or any location with high terrain and make many QSOs. All you need to know is the Maidenhead grid square of your operating location, which is the contest exchange.”
For SSB QSOs on 6 meters, tune between 50.100-50.200 MHz. Keep in mind that 50.100-50.125 is reserved for intercontinental QSOs, so don’t transmit there unless you are trying to work DX. 50.125 is the W/VE calling frequency, so listen there for band openings. If the band starts to open up, move off the calling frequency and start making contacts For the CW operators, you will find CW between 50.080-50.100 MHz. Activity on 2 meters will center around the calling frequency of 144.200. Again, monitor the calling frequency for band openings, but move off when activity starts to pick up. Most 2 meter SSB/CW activity will be found between 144.170-144.230 MHz, and 70 cm activity will center around 432.100 MHz.
“The weekend promises to be a tremendous amount of fun on the VHF and UHF bands. Don’t miss out! All amateurs -- from Technicians to Extras, experienced VHF operators to the first-time VHF dabblers -- are welcome,” Kutzko said. The ARRL June VHF QSO Party runs from 1800 UTC Saturday, June 11 through 0300 UTC Monday, June 13 (Saturday afternoon to Sunday evening for most of the US and Canada). Complete rules and entry forms may be found here. All logs must be e-mailed or postmarked no later than 0300 UTC Wednesday, July 13. Questions can be sent via e-mail to the Contest Branch.