SEPTEMBER VHF CONTEST 2016
UNLIMITED ROVER CATEGORY





OPERATORS

KC2SFU, N2SLN





ANTENNA SYSTEM





RADIO EQUIPMENT

50:
    driver side Icom IC-7000
    TE Systems 0552G amplifier at 200w

144:
    passenger side Icom IC-7000
    Mirage B2518G amplifier at 130w

222:
    driver side Icom IC-7000 at 28 MHz
    222-28HP Downeast Microwave 222 transverter
    TE Systems 2252G amplifier at 200w

432:
    passenger side Icom IC-7000
    TE Systems 4410G amplifier at 50w


BandERP
50720
1441340
2223100
4321125





DESCRIPTION

It was great to get back on the air after having to skip last year's September rover effort due to the new rover vehicle not being contest-worthy at that point. That's not to suggest that it's now finished, but there was enough stuff hooked up (and some of it tested) that we could have a go at it and maybe expect a moderate score. We started this contest in central PA grid square FN10 and as the clock struck 2 PM we were hit with no receive on 2m. Into the back of the van we go in order to start running tests on individual system components. All of a sudden we are hearing K2LIM multiop, but we continued having a look around. We tested the receive of the transceiver--good; add in the duplexer--good; switch the external preamp on and off--hmmm, it's working, but the additional signal didn't go up enough relative to the additional noise, so we turned it back off; add in the bandpass filter--good; switch the amplifier's built-in preamp on and off--the signal increased nicely with only a small increase in the noise level--we're going to have to survive the rest of the contest using that preamp instead of the external one. The external preamp is "hiding behind" a bandpass filter and should have been quieter than the unprotected one. Ultimately we weren't sure how we went from non-working receive to working receive, but 2m was on the air (and stayed on the air for the rest of the contest). [Further experimentation after the contest revealed that the external preamp was "too hot" and we should have experimented with turning on the transceiver's attenuator.] Next, we noticed no receive on 222. Switching the external preamp on was making the receive go completely dead, so again we turned it off and used the amplifier's built-in preamp. Sure enough, without bandpass filters protecting the receive preamplification, there was plenty of inter-station interference for the entire contest, which means hitting the voice keyer at the same time as the second operator, but it was still fun to be back on the air in whatever way possible.

The 30 percent chance of rain never materialized, so we were enjoying terrific roving wx. We set off for FN21 knowing that the TV broadcast interference would be back on 222 without the preamp being protected by a bandpass filter. We were still able to make quite a few contacts on that band, just not a lot of DX when the QRN is S9+10dB. Overall it was a surprisingly productive grid activation for being our shortest. Our best DX from here was Virginia station KO4YC FM17 at 229 miles on 2m. By the end of this second grid activation, we had worked K0BAK/R ten times for the day. Thanks for the much-needed boost to the QSO total, Pete. We tore down and headed for home, noting thunderstorms to the west around midnight (which were surely hitting at the right time for us if they had to hit at all this weekend). New England rovers were not as fortunate Sunday as this same system headed in their direction.

The second day we tried a clockwise rotation around central NY (starting in FN12) which we hadn't done before. The idea was to keep FN23 activated longer by arriving there closer to the time NF2RS/R was leaving instead of being there in parallel like in the past. That goal was somewhat accomplished, but we eventually decided that we like the old way better due to traveling conditions linked to time of day. We did discover a shorter route which we can use in future roves when leaving FN23 for the next grid, so the experimentation was productive in that regard, too. We checked out one part of our hilltop and saw that numerous trees had been removed which may help us in the future on the upper bands toward the east. But we opted to use the other part of the hilltop where there is a roadside pulloff with even fewer obstructions (and less 2m desense as experience has shown). Unfortunately, it also has more power line noise on 6m which may have cost us some distant grids, but we did manage to work well-equipped Maryland station K1RZ FM19 on a 296-mile path on all 4 bands.

We steered the rover vehicle south toward FN22 to finish the contest. This would be our best hilltop based on the combination of privacy, good elevation, low number of signal obstructions, no power line noise, and no desense. We were finally able to work the new grids to the east that we can normally work from the previous site (which was actually further east). We began noticing that we hadn't worked anyone beyond 300 miles in this contest. The east/west paths were hit especially hard as is more often the case in January than September. Overall the tropo was absent this time, and we had no help from sporadic-E or aurora. Activity levels seemed down a bit, too, except that there were more rovers in our log than usual (15 percent of our QSOs were with rovers). The most-worked rover was NF2RS/R at 12 QSOs, followed by K0BAK/R at 10 QSOs. We are looking forward to January 2017 when the van should be completely ready for a full rover effort on the bottom 4 bands with a bit more power than the old days. Update: N2SLN/R takes first place. Click on the results database here: http://www.arrl.org/results-database?vhf_class=RU&long_form=1&sort0=vhf_score+desc&event_id=84823







POINTS SUMMARY


Band     QSOs    QSO pts.    Mults.
------------------------------------------------
50        86        86        18
144       80        80        21
222       54       108        16
432       61       122        16
------------------------------------------------
TOTALS   281       396        71
                              +5 grids activated
                              76


       --- Claimed score = 30,096 ---