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Agree pretty much 100%. There were inaudible 6m signals coming in, from somewhere on FT8, for almost the entire contest. Most of the time traces were barely visible on the waterfall, not decoding. Trying to get a decode, then possibly turning it into a QSO before the ultra-weak propagation faded, had me glued to the computer screen for hours straight. Trying to pull those signals out of the noise seems to me what VHF contesting is all about, at least in Jan/Sep. Having a tool like FT8 in the arsenal changes what is typically “watching-the-paint-dry” excitement to a very compelling operating challenge.
When I first got onto 6m, N5JEH told me that 6m opens to somewhere — even briefly — just about every day of the year. FT8 is showing that not only is this entirely true, it may be a bit longer than briefly!
Our multi-op team made just shy of 100 digital QSOs, almost entirely on FT8. Poor conditions and local QRM on 50.260 made meteor scatter challenging. Our 6m DX included Hawaii, Costa Rica, and a bunch of XE stations toward the end of the contest. PSK reporter showed that 6m was open to Japan from the midwest for a few minutes on Saturday. I didn’t check 50.125 ssb very often; didn’t hear anything outside of local. Only saw 5-6 stations not using contest mode on FT8. I suspect that will be very different in June, but the 2.0 protocol change has made this a non-issue.
Mike WB2FKO @ W5UHF
On Jan 21, 2019, at 10:12 AM, Keith Morehouse <w9rm@...
ARRL JANUARY VHF CONTEST
6: 74Q x 60M
2: 28Q x 26M
TOTAL SCORE: 8772
January - say no more. No openings....well, maybe one for 5 minutes on 6 to
Now that WSJT-X co-exists with all the 'funny little numbers' guys, it's easy to
use and quite effective in contests like this where there is no enhanced
propagation of any kind. Depending on how much you wanted fight fading and
other powers out of your control, there were signals to be seen on 6M FT8 almost
the entire contest. Now, most were not really workable and the ones that were
only resulted in hourly rates in the (maybe) teens, but there were signals there
! Signals heard, which equated to 'butt in chair' time, since one didn't want
to 'miss' that potential opening (which would probably never come). For me,
breaking 100 Q's in January is something I haven't done for years, mainly
because I wasn't interested in sitting listening to nothing but noise for long
stretches. Now, at least I can hear SOMETHING ! And, just maybe, it would be
something cool !
I was pleasantly surprised with the performance of FT8 on 2M. I worked several
guys at 400+ miles, across terrible terrain. Now, these guys were NOT small
stations, to be sure and could very possibly have been worked on CW, but....
This mode has potential on 2 that has yet to be realized.
Yes, I'm praising WSJT modes, which might come as a surprise to some. But, I
have ALWAYS been keen on the technological aspects of these modes, ever since
they appeared in the 90's and it was obvious you could work things 'you couldn't
hear'. My gripe, and it still exists strongly, is the improper use of these
slow, very much weak-signal modes during CONTESTS, when signal/noise conditions
are good enough to allow QSO's on CW or SSB at a rate 3-5X faster. I heard (or
read - it might have been on a chat page) a guy say "Oh, there is a
sporadic E opening starting and signals are getting strong - I better get back
on FT8". THERE is my gripe - right there ! Signals are strong, it's a
contest weekend and you need to get on FT8. What ???
Keith J Morehouse
Calmesa Partners G.P.