VHF / UHF Contest Station Locator
by John P. Toscano, WØJT

The Contest Station Locator is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet (currently version 2.06-xl, dated January 10, 2004) that was inspired by an e-mail message posted by Rich Westerberg, NØHJZ, to the Northern Lights Radio Society mail reflector on September 1, 2000.  The premise of Rich's message was that with his "average" station for 2 meters (an FT-736 radio, 160 watt brick amplifier and preamp, and a 12-element beam at 45 feet), he had been able to routinely work at least 25 different grids on the band in most VHF contests, and suggested that the rest of us in NLRS-land ought to be able to duplicate his success with a little "inside information".

Rich then proceeded to list 54 stations in 34 grids, not bothering to list anyone in the NLRS "back yard" of grids EN34 and EN35.

I proceeded to take this list of stations, and tabulate it using Microsoft Excel.  Then, to make it more useful to me, I looked up the actual latitude and longitude coordinates of each station on the QRZ web site, and wrote some Excel code to turn these coordinates into a full 6-digit Maidenhead Grid Square.  I also wrote some code in Excel to automatically tabulate the beam heading and distance to each of these stations from my location.

Rich had sorted his original list by grid square.  If you were hunting for a particular grid, you had a list of some good stations to try for.  Now, I could also sort the spreadsheet by beam heading, and during a contest, as I spun the antennas around and around during "dead" times, I could refer to my table and see who was located in the direction I was currently pointed.  I could also see at a glance just how far away they were.

Another application occurred to me.  If I was out as a Rover station, it would sure be nice to be able to plug in my own coordinates from a GPS or a good map at each stop, and still know just where to point my antennas and how far away I was from my likely contacts.

Yet another idea occurred to me.  Wouldn't it be nice to know what bands a particular station was likely to have available, so that if I did manage to work them on 2 meters, I could instantly be reminded what other bands were worth a try?  (I think it would be a great boon, but that information is a bit hard to come by.  I've only scratched the surface on implementing that idea.)

Naturally, in the NLRS spirit of things, it makes no sense for the spreadsheet to be pegged only to my home location, especially since it had already been modified to support the Rover idea.  So why not make it a general-purpose tool that anyone in NLRS (and others, such as the Badger Contesters, as well) could use to maximize their contest scores?  No reason I can think of, other than "giving help to my competitors".  But the way I figure it, I owe so much to my fellow contesters for all the help they've given me, that I don't consider that to be a valid reason at all to not share my work.

So here it is.  I took the original list of stations, and added everyone listed on the NLRS web page as a current member.  I realize that I may have missed a few people, if the list I used wasn't completely current.  Just let me know, and I can add you in to the list.
As far as the "bands available" listing, that is only my best guess.  For the people on Rich's original list who weren't NLRS members, I assumed that 2 meters was a definite YES and all the other bands were UNKNOWN.  Then I examined NLRS web pages that tabulated activity of NLRS folks by band, such as the "States Above 50 MHz" listing, and the recent contest score listings, and added YES values where those web pages indicated that the operators involved had used a particular band to make some contest QSO's.  I added a few other stations that I routinely work that weren't on any of the prior lists, and I added the list of "Northwest" stations maintained by NØMSS.  I also added in band activity information from VE2PIJ's VHF and Weak Signal page.   It's far from perfect, and far from complete, but it's the best I have so far.

The latest version also has some temporary entries for folks in portable locations just for the September 2001 VHF QSO Party, and an entirely new feature, the "Quick Grid Lookup" feature.  There is a new field into which you can type any 4-digit or 6-digit grid square, and have the bearing and distance information calculated to the center of that grid from your location.  This is handy for 6 meter openings, when you hear someone working a station in grid DO80 and you frantically refer to your handy printed grid map and eyeball the direction to which you should be pointed.  Now, just type in DO80 in the appropriate place, and the bearing (and distance) is shown for you immediately.

I encourage you to check your own entry in the spreadsheet and email me any corrections you'd like to have made.  I got all my location coordinates from QRZ, and found a few mistakes which I attempted to correct.  If you don't usually contest from your home location (I presume QRZ gets their location information from FCC records), I'd love to know the latitude and longitude of the place you actually operate from.

I also encourage you to "nominate" other stations that you think people should look for in VHF/UHF contests.  If you know what bands they operate, I'd love to get that information also.

I am working to see if we can make this tool available as a live web database, accessible even to folks without Microsoft Excel.  But that is a little ways off into the future.

A few words about the spreadsheet are in order.

There are two "pages" or "tabs" on the worksheet.  The second tab holds four general-purpose converter tables for switching back and forth among 4 different ways of representing a location:  (1) decimal degrees of latitude and longitude; (2) degrees and minutes of latitude and longitude; (3) degrees, minutes, and seconds of latitude and longitude;  and (4) Maidenhead Grid Square, either 4-digit or 6-digit.  This may come in handy if you are entering new rows into the front page of the spreadsheet.  In fact, I figured it was handy enough of a tool that I made a separate, small Excel worksheet of just that page in case you wanted something smaller than the whole Station Locator worksheet.

Both pages have "Protection" turned on.  This is to prevent the accidental modification to any of the built-in formula cells, which could lead to errors that would be hard to track down later on.  Cells that you are supposed to be able to modify are shown with a pale yellow background, and you can indeed modify them without turning off the protection.  Cells that are formatted with blue colored text are cells that are automatically calculated in the worksheet.  These should never be modified unless you know exactly what you are doing!  The cells formatted in dark green text are the NLRS members that I added to Rich's original list.  And a few NLRS members located outside the Twin Cities metro area made it to Rich's list, so they also got the colorizing treatment.  Oh, and I added at least one station that wasn't on Rich's list, who is a "big gun" on 2 meters, whom you just might be able to work with a single yagi and 150 watts of power, even though he's over 1,000 miles away.  Hint:  Don't point your antenna at Texas, point it at the moon.

There is also a block of cells whose text is colored magenta.  These are cells set aside for you to modify as you see fit, to add stations or locations of interest to you, without having to go through the hassle of adding new rows to the spreadsheet table.  Note that in that block of cells, some rows have been filled in by me (for example, several 4-grid corners of interest), and some are essentially empty.  Note that the rows that don't have valid latitude and longitude coordinates have some cells (like bearing and distance) that appear to be empty, but they really aren't empty.  They are formula cells that detect the lack of a valid set of coordinates and compute to a value of a (blank cell).  So don't be surprised when some of those "empty" cells pop up with values in them as soon as you start filling in the coordinates of a new location.  Cells colored in red are temporary entries put in for just a specific contest, mainly portable or multi-op stations.

73 and good DX from John, WØJT,EN34js