Tuesday, January 13, 2009

VHF Contest School: Logging

(by Todd Sprinkmann, KC9BQA)

A lot of guys have asked me how you properly log a VHF/UHF contest. Meaning what info goes where. I'll get to that right away, 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) If you prefer, you may simply "hand out points" on an informal basis. Doing only this is far better than not helping contesters at all.

Having said that, I do keep logs, and I do 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, I'll confess that I have done mostly paper logging in the 5 years I've contested. I realize the majority of folks have a favorite logging program or two. I'm no expert on those. I do use N3FJP sometimes now for logging. There are others. If you have a favorite, tell me about it and help others make their choice.

But if you're a beginner, a paper log is fine. I'm going to personally help beginners after the contest with submitting logs anyway. Let's just do the basics for now.


(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. You don't want anything rejected.

MODE means either "PH" for phone (any voice, SSB or FM) or "CW". Those are the only two mode choices. I learned that the hard way, too. Once again, you don't want anything rejected. You could lose 1st place for WI section, by several hundred points, for instance. (Been there, done that, LOL)

TIME means the minute you exchanged grid squares and rogers. UTC time is preferable, like they use on HF. 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. So for instance, the Jan ARRL VHF Sweepstakes starts at 1:00pm central time next Saturday. 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 local time + 6 hours for UTC = 0000 in UTC time. If you have a total block with UTC time, just enter local time and I'll help with adjustments later. Don't let the details get in the way of you trying VHF contesting for the first time. 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.

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". (Again, I will devote a separate email 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.

(I will also address grid squares in a separate article. 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.)

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. Besides I'm going to help anyone who needs it.

These articles are geared toward getting you comfortable with *starting* contesting.


Todd KC9BQA EN63

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