Warm Up with the January VHF Contest, January 21-23


If you’re feeling a chill in the air, it must be time for the January VHF Contest! Those in the northern tier of the US (or in a good part of the US this winter) are experiencing brisk winds, temperatures dipping southward, piles of snow or ice, or heavy rain. This means the ARRL January VHF Contest is near. What a great way to warm up for the 2017 VHF+ contest season, even if it's already warm where you live. This annual event begins at 1900 UTC on Saturday, January 21, and it wraps up at 0359 UTC on Monday, January 23.

The objective for amateurs in the US and Canada (and territories) to work as many stations in as many different Maidenhead grid squares as possible, using frequencies above 50 MHz — often while trying to stay warm. Contest contacts may be made using SSB, CW, digital modes, and even FM simplex.

The January VHF Contest offers Single-Operator and Multioperator categories. What’s really cool about this contest are these three Single-Operator categories, inviting to newcomers and seasoned VHFers alike: FM-only, 3-Band (50 MHz, 144 MHz, and 440 MHz), and Portable. The rules spell out the details for these as well as for other Single-Operator, Rover, and Multioperator entry categories.

“We’ve seen some very strong numbers of participants and healthy scores recently in the FM-only category,” said ARRL Contest Branch Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ. “The number of Portable and Rover stations — and their accomplishments — has been amazing, even in the January event.”

Propagation can be a surprise in January, with winter E-skip, aurora, tropo, and temperature inversions. Jahnke said, “Even diehard meteor scatter and EME (moonbounce) folks will be trying some of the latest in digital processing software, including MSK441 (meteor scatter) and WSJT-X (EME), looking for newcomers as well as the seasoned crowd to get them in their logs.”

Getting on the VHF/UHF bands is not hard. Technician licensees have access to all amateur bands above 50 MHz. Antennas for VHF/UHF frequencies are available new or used, and you can even roll your own. Kent Britain, WA5VJB, offers useful information on his website on how to make your own “cheap Yagis.” Another approach is the Quagi antenna. Wayne Overbeck, N6NB, provides an overview on his website. For UHF+, loop Yagis are relatively simple to build, and designs are readily available. Even some HF antennas will work on 6 meters, and most modern transceivers offer 6-meter capability. A modest number of HF+50/144/432 MHz transceivers also are available, and transverters are available for all VHF and UHF bands.

All contest entries must be uploaded via the web app or e-mailed to the contest Robot. Logs must be submitted or postmarked no later than 0359 UTC on Wednesday, February 22, 2017. Mail paper logs to ARRL January VHF Contest, 225 Main St., Newington, CT 06111.

Contact the ARRL Contest Branch for more information.