Tips on VHF / UHF contesting for the FM only operator

These contests are a good oportunity for both new hams and those hams with limited stations to get on the air and make contacts and have a little fun over the course of a contest week-end. From an ARES/RACES EmCom viewpoint this is an excellent way to exercise your station and see just what its actual capability is. To me this is far more valuable to you than checking in on a weekly net, even if its a simplex net. And you can jump on the radio at your convience, possibly several different times over the course of the weekend.

OK, so what do you need to get on the air for the contest? Basically if all you have is a HT and a halfway decent outside antenna you can get on the air and make some "Q's" or QSO's if you will. A simple J-Pole, some good feedline as short as possible and antenna elevation of 20-25' produces good results. You can even operate from you mobile if so choose.

Obviously the better station you have the better chance you have of working more people. Several years ago With just a 25 watt radio (FT-736R) and a Comet GP-9 mounted at ~25' I have worked W5DWI near Port Lavaca on a semi-regular basis "on FM SIMPLEX". I was down near his house once and swung by and with my GPS I was able to determine that's 107 miles back to my house in LaPorte. His two meter FM station is nothing more than a 50 watt mobile and a 7 or 8 el yagi. Dick use to live in Houston, had many friends here and loved working FM simplex and wanted to stay in touch with the old gang.

The contest is based upon two factors. One is how many contacts you make and two how many unique grid squares you work. This produces your composite score. We are fortunate to be very close to a convergence of four grids, EL-29, EL-19, EM-10 and EM-20. They intersect about six miles due south of Prairieview TX. Those who live near there could possibly work all four grids from their homes. And if we were to convince eoungh people to get on the air and participate just a little we could have some fun comparing our scores with one another after the contest. We have more than enough people in ARES alone to have a sizable number of stations on the air. And it would not take much more than a half tank of gas to go operate as a rover from two or more grids. If you really feel up to you can run down to Freeport and activate EL28 which is always a wanted grid.

Do I need a computer and computer logging program? Nope you sure don't. Do I need some fancy digital program to use. Nope this is just plain ole analog FM/SSB "When All Else Fails" communictions. You can download the necessary forms from either the league web-site and use them. Heck, you don't even have to send in a log but the serious folks would appreciate it if you would, just right "Check Log" on it so they know how to handle it.

So you've never done anymore contesting that maybe working a field day station once a year. All the information you need is on the league website. General Contest Rules can be found here. Rules specific to the Septemember VHF Contest can be found here here Familiarize yourself with the rules and the categories you can enter in. For the FM only operator you will be entering under rule 3.4 Single Operator FM Only. OTOH I will be entering under 3.6 Limited Rover as I intend to operate from at least four grids and I will primarily be on SSB but I will still be fishing for contacts on FM too.

Now here's the fun part. Since I'm going to be a "rover" if you work me while I'm in EL29 we both get credit for one contact. I move over to EL19 and we work each other again its "one more" contact because I was in a different grid than the first one. Repeat that for EM10 and EM20 we have four contacts and four grids ... that's 16 points each just between the two of us.

So what's this grid stuff you are talking about? A grid is a geographical region. Again the league is a good place to start looking for info

Now, for sucessful FM constesting we need to have a plan. I'm also suggesting that you become familiar with where to look for simplex FM operations in the area. In the S/E part of Harris Co you will find a very active group on 145.520 and another less active group on 145.780. The following is the accepted simplex FM band plans. The frequencies in bold italic are ones that I suggest we program in our radios for the contest. That does not limit you to just those frequencies, its just a place to start "fishing for contacts", spin the VFO through the simplex sub band, theres no telling who you may find to make a Q with. Another important element is to have a "sked" or schedule. I will be checking for two meter FM contacts at the top of every hour on those frequencies. And I work you up the band over to 70cm at that time. I will be checking for 70 centimeter FM contacts at the bottom of the hour. I will briefly check six meter FM on an off depending on SSB is running. So I encourage everyone to at listen around at the top of the hour on 2 meters and 70 cm at the bottom of the hour.

Club competetion. Joey Clements, W5BAK is the trustee for N5TRS which is the club call sign for Harris County ARES and has given permission to use N5TRS for club affiliation. You only need to send in an addional summary sheet for the "club" to get credit for your contacts. Under the rules we can only county contacts within our "club territory" which is basicly STX Dists 1 & 14 you can submit an additonal "club" summary sheet for all contacts made in those counties, additional intructions can be found in the rules for a club score.

Now for you regular SSB / CW contesters and rovers, lets make an effort to go work these FM stations too!

Six Meters (50-54 MHz)

This is the 6 meter sub-band.

52.05 - 53.00 MHz 52.525 MHz also look between 52.410 and 52.530 as well.

Two Meters (144 - 148 MHz)

FM simplex is allowed on the following sub-bands and here is an idea of where to find FM simplex stations to work. If you feel energetic you could program them all in but if we just focus on a couple we should have a lot of fun. I suggest lets attempt to use the frequency next to the sub-band.

144.900 - 145.100 - Primarily packet but simplex is allowed. Avoid for contest weekends

145.500 - 145.800 - 145.58

146.400 - 146.600 - 146.58

147.400 - 147.600 - 147.58

This may not work in all areas but its a good place to start.

1-1/4 Meters (222 - 225 MHz)

This is the 1 1/4 meter sub-band.

223.400 - 223.520 - 223.500

70 Centimeters (430 - 450 MHz)

This is the 70 cm FM sub-band.

445.000 -447.000. 446.000 also look between 446.025 - 446.075 as well.

Soooo, lets program

52.525 / 145.580 / 146.580 / 147.580 / 223.500 / 446.000

in those radios and get on the air that week end.