I’m Randy, a 39-year old ham living in Amersfoort, which is located about 25 miles east from Amsterdam. Licensed since aged 17 (1997) and active on all bands from 160 meters up till 3cm tough VHF, UHF and SHF are prefered in (SSB) voice, ATV, CW and weak-signal/DIGI modes.
On the day to day job I work as Independent technical consultant specified in Linux Infrastructure solutions. Also doing some hands-on support stuff for repeater group Hobbyscoop, the annual Ballon Fox Hunt and trying to promote HAMNET-activities with a group of ham’s throughout the country.
The 1th station from the Netherlands on 144, 432 and 1296 MHz in the QRP section and the 2nd station on 144 and 432 MHz in de low-power section based on DAC and NAC results during 2018.
Today, the 1st monthly FT8 contest on 144.174 MHz was held. This contest will take place every 1st wednesday of the month between 17.00-20.00 GMT. On the 2nd wednesday of the month, the contest will be held on 432.174 MHz. Goal of this new contest is to promote (FT8) activity on the 144 and 432 MHz bands.
Participating is easy. Just make QSO’s and send on your WSJT-X (build-in) logfile to the contestrobot on the VHFdx.ro website. No need to hassle with Cabrillo or EDI files, no hassle with VHF-EU contest mode. Just the normal FT8 mode like u use everyday.
Having a look at the uploaded logs so far I seem to be the best participant throughout all of Europe. But 55 QSO’s in 3 hours could be better. Time to change tactics for the next contest. I’ll use a second transceiver and second WSJT-X instance. The second transceiver will use a vertikal antenne to work local stations that are also using a simple vertical antenna within 100 kilometers / 10 grid locators. I’ll use the 9700 with beam to search for dx stations in other grid locators, since these count as multiplier. Only one transceiver will be in TX at any moment since contest rules forbid multiple transmissions (including fox/hound) the same time. If the propagation is good my goal is to work somewhere about 100 stations during these 3 hours.
It’s the end of a year. Time to have a look at the results from the different VHF and UHF contests in my country.
Dutch Activity Contest (Monthly evenings) I was active during all 144 DAC’s, most 432 DAC’s, some 1296 DAC’s and very rare on 50 or 70 MHz (since these are on thursday and I have other obligations on that day). The 2019 results are:
50 MHz: 5th place in the Netherlands 70 MHz: 3rd place in the Netherlands 144 MHz: 5th place in the Netherlands 432 MHz: 2nd place in the Netherlands 1296 MHz: 6th place in the Netherlands
Contest weekends In the first (full) weekend of march, may, juli, september and october the weekend contests are held, mostly throughout Europe. I ended up 2nd place in the C-section, which is for stations active on both 144 and 432 MHz with a power up to 100 Watts (low). In the D-section (microwave, single operator) I ended up 9th. This makes sense. The 23cm band is just there as extra and I don’t have other microwave bands available. I don’t participate in the november Marconi contest.
For the last days I’ve enjoyed the tropospheric propagation. Stations in EA were easily workable on 144 and 432 MHz. Lot’s of stations are active in FT8 these days on 144.174, 432.174 and even 1296.174 MHz. The cherry on the cake was a QSO with Stevie (GJ6WRI) on both 144 and 432 MHz, being active from Jersey Island. On 1296 MHz this was an FT8 QSO with Keith (GU6EFB) from Guernsey Island. A new DXCC entity for me on these bands. And he also uses LoTW so the QSO’s are confirmed already.
Very rare was a Sporadic E opening. This can be seen almost yearly on 50 MHz but it’s very, very rare on 144 MHz. On Saturday, december 28, a remarkable event took place. Just after 16.00 UTC a mid-winter Sporadic E event took place. F4EZJ (JN05) noticed OH1CP (KP10). After ringing alarm bells several QSO’s were made using a scatter point around JO42.
I personally tried to work more Maidenhead locators on 432 MHz, in particular with LoTW users since I’m busy achieving a 432 MHz VUCC certificate. I went from 25 to 42 confirmed locators via LoTW. On 1296 MHz I managed to work several stations to. ODX was F2CT in IN93 (1103 km) in SSB and also multiple stations in FT8. Unfortunately no EA stations on 1296 MHz.
During the tropo ducting new IARU Region 1 and even World distance records were set on 432 MHz. First there was a QSO between D41CV from Cape Verde with EI3KD over a distance of 4163 kilometers. This happened on Saturday, december 28 around 09.00 GMT. A few hours later, the record was broken, again by D41CV now in QSO with GM3SEK, good for 4544 kilometers distance. This record was set around 12.00 GMT.
I’ve experimented using a WebSDR.org receiver for FT8, while using my own antenna for transmitting. Reason for this is the S9++ QRN I have on the 160-meter band. The set-up is quite easy. I’m using a Mac Mini in the shack, but it has a Windows 10 Bootcamp partition for regular Ham Radio software.
Keep in mind that there might be some Hertz difference in your Transmitted audio and the received audio via the WebSDR. On the University of Twente WebSDR this seems to be less than 10 Hz. My Icom IC-7300 isn’t locked to 10 MHz.
The next step should be programming a CAT-splitter to enable the WebSDR to run synchronous with the IC-7300. I haven’t found a way to do so. For digimodes on a single frequency, like FT8, this isn’t really important but could be handy.
Thanks to yesterdays’ tropo conditions I was able to complete QSO’s with OE3NHW in JN88 and SP6RGB in JO71. Both QSO’s are confirmed today via Logbook of the World (LoTW) and now I’ve got my 100 Maidenhead squares confirmed on 144 MHz. It was tough! It took me about 2 years to achieve this one.
Scoring a DXCC is easy. During the bigger contest you can do it in one weekend on HF with the right antenna and equipment. A VUCC award on 50 MHz can be done in one Sporadic-E season (may-aug). But on 144 MHz you really need time to complete it. Sporadic-E is very rare on this band. Meteor Scatter can help you, but there are only a few big showers a year.
In total I worked 133 Maidenhead squares so far, of which 100 are confirmed via LoTW. I don’t do paper QSL. Now I continue to work on VUCC for 432 MHz (50 squares) and 1296 MHz (25 squares) but this seems to be easier. The squares are already there, only the conformations via LoTW aren’t.
I’d like to thank all stations active on 144 MHz SSB *and* FT8. Yes. FT8 really brought a lot of activity back on 144 MHz tropo stations. And in particular for the FT8 stations in Europe: Also be active on 432.174 MHz.
If the newly announced Icom IC-705 could work as remote head for your IC-9700 (IC-76xx and IC-7700) at home. Or even your remotely located IC-7300? Just like Elecraft does wirt the K3 and the K3 head. Of Flex Radio with the Maestro. Or the IC-7100 with some help of a RemoteRig kit… Since all electronics are already in place and the IC-705 is equipped with WiFi and Bluetooth, in the end it’s just adding software. A feature that will boost Icoms’ market share for sure!
Today there were some nice Sporadic E openings on 144 MHz from my locator (JO22) towards IM76. I’ve worked 2 stations about 2.000 kilometers away. Normally I always mis Sporadic E openings on 144 MHz but today I was lucky to be in the shack on time to prepare for the 144 MHz NAC this evening.
I also heard CN8LI from IM63 (2300 km) but could not work him.
I stumbled across a nice program for grid hunters on the VHF and above bands, reading an article on the local radio club’s website. The program is called GridTracker and is written by N0TTL. Versions are available for Windows, Linux and Mac OSX. Perfect to see if new grids are workable via digimodes like FT8.
The more maidenhead grids you collect, the more difficult it gets. While I’ve collected enough grid squares for the 50 MHz VUCC via LoTW I’m still in need for the last 17 on 144 MHz. It should be doable all via tropo using SSB or FT8 (of Meteor Scatter during the september Perseids shower).
Anyone active on 144 Mhz in these squares: JO00, JN29, IO84 or the German-Poland border (JO71, JO72) and willing to try using a sked? These grid squares should always be workable if you have a horizontal antenna system.
Update 19 juli: IN98, JN26, JN39, JO43, JN58 and JO66 added. VUCC score is now 95/100.
This weekend the IARU Region 1, 50 and 70 MHz contest took place. For the first hour I was trying to work some local hams in FT8 VHF-contest mod since this is an allowed mode in the contest. and worked some UK stations via Tropo. Then for about 1,5 hour I worked some stations in South-East Europe since there were Sporadic E openings. I wasn’t active on 70 MHz. Or actually active at all due to the lack of time. Hope to work some more stations during Part 2 of the contest and be active on 70 MHz too. This takes place the weekend of 6-7 juli. But during that weekend there is also an VHF/UHF/SHF contest.
Less than a week after releasing firmware v1.10, Icom just released v1.11. This update fixes an issue where the IC-9700 may hang up on a multifunction dial operation. Two Icom users reported issues with me with there IC-9700 frozen up. I hope this will solve the issue they’ve experienced.
Firmware IC-9700 v1.11 can be downloaded from the Icom Japan website.