[VHFcontesting] Fwd: VHF Contests Rules Discussion and Proposal


Keith Morehouse
 

This came through the VHF CONTESTING mailing list last night.
There have been numerous replies on that list
My reply follows.

-W9RM

Keith J Morehouse
Managing Partner
Calmesa Partners G.P.
Olathe, CO


---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Bob, W3IDT <w3idt@...>
Date: Mon, Mar 16, 2020 at 5:21 PM
Subject: [VHFcontesting] Fwd: VHF Contests Rules Discussion and Proposal
To: <vhfcontesting@...>



I have sent the following discussion and proposal for VHF Contest Rule
Changes to appropriate ARRL and CQ contest personnel. If you are
interested in the future of VHF contests, please read carefully and
offer your considered opinions and alternate recommendations.

Please forward to your local contest and vhf clubs.

[A copy of this email with a PDF version attached for ease of
re-distribution is somewhere in the email system; it may or may not
appear in VHFcontesting.]

TO:     Distribution List
      at bottom of this memo.

FROM:     Robert F. Teitel, w3idt
      for the Wopsononock Mountaintop Operators
      VHF contest club, W3SO

      And while this proposal is NOT an official
      Potomac Valley Radio Club (PVRC) position,
      it does represent what appears to be a
      consensus of a number of our VHF operators.

RE:    VHF Contests Rules Discussion and Proposal



CONTEXT:

The Wopsononock Mountaintop Operators VHF club (operating first as W3YOZ
then as W3SO in Western Pennsylvania) has participated in almost every
VHF contest for the past 25 years.[*]

We usually produce among the top scores in the limited multi-operator
class. Thus we are in a position to comment on VHF contesting from long
and extensive experience.

[*] Only exception has been four January contests when we had snow and
ice so bad that operating was simply not possible. This past January
2020 contest, after a couple of hours of operation, we lost the rest of
Saturday due to ice, and had to wait until at least some of the ice
melted on Sunday to resume operation. Such is life contesting from a
mountaintop in Western Pennsylvania in the winter. The rest of the year
it's usually very nice!]

SUMMARY:

1. We don't need to research detail numbers of contest participants or
number of QSOs to know what has happened to VHF contests in the past
year or so: CW and SSB participation is WAY down, and activity on 222
and 432 has almost disappeared. Oh yeah, a huge continent-wide Eskip
opening does bring some participants, once the word gets out. But that
does not represent normal contest activity.

In short, Marshall, K5QE, - who manages another major limited
multi-operator class station - stated the essence of the problem in his
3830 post with his results from the January 2020 VHF contest:
"NOT A SINGLE SSB CONTACT ON 6M".

The cause is, of course, the tremendous increase in the use of FT8.

2. We do NOT have anything against FT8 (or FT4).
Its use for weak signal contacts on HF and VHF has been a tremendous
advance, especially for the increasing number of hams living in antenna
restricted communities. We also don't object to appropriate use of FT8
in VHF contests (though we wish more stations would make use of the more
contest oriented FT4).

3. There has been much discussion lately, in the VHF contesting
reflector and among VHF operators, concerning what should be done to
increase activity on the VHF bands during contests.

The following are among the major suggestions:

A: Banning DIGITAL operations in general, or FT4/FT8 specifically, in
VHF contests.
We do NOT favor this approach.

B. Allocate DIFFERENT point values to the (SINGLE) contact per station
made with CW, with VOICE, or with DIGITAL modes in general or with
FT4/FT8 specifically.
We do NOT favor this approach.

C: Change the various VHF contests to have different rules;
that is, for example, have the ARRL January contest be ALL FT4/FT8; the
ARRL June contest have different point values depending on the contact
mode; and the September contest a multi-mode contest (and let the CQ
contest committee and VHF contest manager make a choice among various
options for the July contest).
We do NOT favor this approach.

D: Add more competitive classes, such as an "FT4/FT8 only" class to
complement the current "FM only" class.
We do NOT favor this approach.
In fact, we would favor the removal of the "FM only" class.

E1: Permit MULTIPLE contacts with the same station using different
modes, CW, VOICE(AM,SSB,FM), and ANY DIGITAL, with the SAME contact
value for each contact.
We MILDLY favor this approach in general, but have some concerns
regarding specific rules.

E2: Permit MULTIPLE contacts with the same station using different
modes, CW, VOICE(AM,SSB,FM), and ANY DIGITAL, with DIFFERENT point
values to contacts in different modes.
We STRONGLY favor this approach in general, but again have some concerns
regarding specific rule (as discussed below).


DISCUSSION:

on A: Banning DIGITAL operations in general, or FT4/FT8 specifically.

Stations not near densely population areas rely on Meteor Scatter (MS)
and Earth-Moon-Earth (Moon-Bounce or EME) modes to work grids outside
their immediate vicinity; we certainly do NOT want to ban such activity;
in fact, it should be encouraged.
[We, at W3SO, do very little MS or EME, not that we are near high
population areas - we definitely are not - but for whatever reason none
of our operators has so far been interested.]

Trying to craft rules prohibiting FT4/FT8 and/or similar "simple and
fast" digital modes yet permitting / encouraging "complex and slow" MS
and EME modes would be difficult, though possible. Hence, in order to
protect MS and EME modes, we have to accept FT4/FT8 as a valid DIGITAL
modes. As noted earlier, we have nothing against FT4/FT8. It is simply
another mode of communication.

A major limitation of FT4/FT8 for VHF contesting is the inability to
request the availability of other bands and to pass a FT4/FT8 station to
other bands. By using FT4/FT8, operators make the choice not to pass
callers to other bands. [The developers of FT4/FT8 are aware of this
problem.]

We do NOT favor banning DIGITAL operations in general, or FT4/FT8
specifically.

on B: Allocate DIFFERENT point values to the (SINGLE) contact per
station made with CW, with VOICE, or with DIGITAL modes in general or
with FT4/FT8 specifically.

There are two problems with this approach for VHF contests.

The first is that it does virtually nothing to ameliorate the basic VHF
contest problem: Lack of CW and VOICE activity. We seriously doubt that
FT4/FT8 stations would suddenly gravitate to CW (assuming it is the
highest valued mode). A few normally VOICE/CW operators might come back,
but that doesn't increase the total number of participants.

The second is how to assign the point values. That CW operating skill is
greater than VOICE operating skill is universally acknowledged in
amateur radio; hence, its usual higher point value in mixed mode
contests (or in non-contest Field Day). How would "simple and fast"
digital FT4/FT8 contacts be valued relative to VOICE, CW, or "complex
and slow" digital MS and EME contacts?

We don't want dismiss different point values for different mode contacts
as such, even though there might be considerable controversy over the
actual point values.

We do NOT favor allocating DIFFERENT point values for SINGLE contacts
made with different modes because it would do very little to increase CW
or VOICE participation.

On C: Change the various VHF contests to have different rules; that is,
for example, have the ARRL January contest be ALL digital or ALL
FT4/FT8; the ARRL June contest be a differential point value contest;
and the September contest a multi-mode contest (and let the CQ contest
committee and VHF contest manager make a choice among all the options).

Hard to predict how this would be received by the VHF community at
large. Since we are NOT in favor of at least two of the choices, we
could hardly be in favor of such an approach. The UHF/Microwave
community would certainly object, as there would now be one whole
contest without the possibility of moving stations to higher bands (or
"running the bands").

We do NOT favor vastly different rules for the different VHF (and
UHF/Microwave) contests.

On D: Add more competitive classes, such as an "FT4/FT8 only" class to
complement the current "FM only" class.

We think of the available modes as being CW, VOICE (AM,SSB,FM), and
DIGITAL (RTTY, any WSJT or similar mode). Fragmenting participation in
various sub-modes is not the direction we need in VHF contests, just the
opposite: We need more general participation, not less.

We do NOT favor adding additional competitive classes.
In fact, we would favor the removal of the "FM only" class.

ON E1 and E2.
E1: Permit MULTIPLE contacts with the same station using different
modes, CW, VOICE(AM,SSB,FM), and ANY DIGITAL, with the SAME point value
for each contact.

E2: Permit MULTIPLE contacts with the same station using different
modes, CW, VOICE(AM,SSB,FM), and ANY DIGITAL, with DIFFERENT point
values to contacts in different modes or submodes.

Both these options provide the ultimate goal: Increase activity in VHF
contests. If today, some station typically works 200 contacts, rule
changes E1 or E2 could provide up to 600 contacts depending on specific
implementation.

Increased use of CW and VOICE contacts provide the ability to move
stations to other bands.

We lean to DIFFERENT point values for contacts in the three modes, CW,
VOICE, and DIGITAL. But recognize the problems creating equitable point
values for the different modes and, especially, distinguishing between
"simple and fast" digital FT4/FT8 contacts with one point value, and
"complex and slow" digital MS and EME contacts another value, as noted
above in the discussion of option (B:).

In addition, "manufactured contacts" are one of our major concerns. We
certainly do NOT want a pair of stations finishing a VOICE contact to
then send "dit-dit" to each other and count it as a CW contact. This
concern leads to a secondary issue: How many contacts in which modes on
which bands?

The latter issue is complicated and based on operator (radio) band
capability, FCC band segment allocations, and current practice, keeping
in mind that the goal is increased participation in VHF contests.

On 6m, the "complication" doesn't exist: Most current radios have 6m
capability, there is an exclusive CW band segment, and current practice
is to have true CW contacts in that exclusive band segment. THREE
contacts, one CW in the exclusive CW band segment, one VOICE, one any
DIGITAL, with or without different point values would increase activity
considerably, and might even draw in normally HF contesters.

The high bands, 222/432MHz, 902/1296MHz, and 2.3GHz/higher, are really
used only by serious VHF contest operators (who might also be serious HF
contest operators), and do not have an exclusive CW band allocation;
they can easily have a common set of multiple contact rules. So, how to
prevent "manufactured contacts"? Three potential contest rules:
1) Require a minimum frequency change between those contacts (similar to
HF Sprints),
2) Prescribe an "exclusive CW segment" (similar to some HF contest
specified band segments), or
3) Require a minimum amount of time between those contacts.
We lean to (2): An exclusive CW band segment prescribed by the contest
rules.

2m is the most complicated from a multiple contact rules perspective:
Few radios have 2m built in, so drawing the HF crowd to 2m contesting is
more problematic; and there is an FCC designated exclusive CW band
segment, but current practice is to have CW contacts in the SSB band
segment.

So, should the 2m rules follow those of 6m, or should the 2m rules
follow those of the higher bands?
1) Following the 6m rules implies CW contacts in the FCC designated
exclusive CW segment, contrary to current practice. But many "current
practices" would change in a MULTIPLE contacts per band environment.
2) Following the higher band rules implies (per our view stated above) a
contest rule designated exclusive CW band segment. What better exclusive
CW band segment than the one already designated by the FCC?

The discussion above leads to 6m and 2m having the same rules.

[On all bands, a mixed CW/VOICE contact should count as a VOICE contact
only, and the rules should make "manufactured contacts" impossible.]

CONCLUSION:

We are advocating a partial set of new rules for VHF contests:

1a. To permit up to THREE contacts per station, one each with CW, with
VOICE (any of AM, SSB, or FM), and with DIGITAL (RTTY, any WSJT or
similar mode), in all VHF contest bands, and

1b. That CW contacts be initiated and completed solely in the FCC
allocated exclusive CW band segments on 6m and 2m, and in contest rules
specified band segment on the higher bands.

2a. That DIFFERENT point values be assigned to the contacts in the
various modes ONLY IF an equitable system of point value assignment can
be be developed recognizing the distinction between "simple and fast"
digital and "complex and slow" digital contacts.

2b. For an initial discussion on point values, we would suggest
1) ONE point for "simple and fast" DIGITAL contacts such as FT4/FT8,
2) TWO points for VOICE contacts, and
3) THREE or FOUR points for CW or "complex and slow" DIGITAL contacts,
such as MS and EME.

This proposal does NOT address issues such as DIFFERENT multipliers for
contacts on different bands (CQ's ONE for 6m, TWO for 2m; ARRL's ONE for
6m and 2m, TWO for 222/432; FOUR for 902/1296; EIGHT for 2.3 of higher).

It also does NOT address Entry Categories.
It also does NOT address Assistance rules.
It also does NOT address Rover-related rules.

SUPPORT

This proposal has been discusses with a number of major VHF contest
participants within the Potomac Valley Radio Club (PVRC) (of which we
are members - but is NOT a formal PVRC position), and with other major
VHF contest participants well outside the mid-Atlantic area.

There is rather unanimous agreement that
a) current VHF contests are "broken", and
b) that multiple contacts on different modes per band would invigorate
VHF contest operations by generating much more activity and, perhaps,
attracting HF contest operators, at least to 6m.

There is not unanimous agreement on some of the operational details,
including the number of contacts, in which modes, on which bands, and
with what differential point values, precisely for the reasons discussed
at length above.

We have not listed the calls and names of those who have provided
contributions and constructive criticism to this discussion and
resulting recommendations in order to preserve their ability to issue
public comments with or without acknowledgement of their previous
participation.

It surely will take time for the contest committees to sort this all
out, and make appropriate changes to the contest rules.


Respectfully submitted.

Robert (Bob) F. Teitel, w3idt
for the Wopsononock Mountaintop Operators
VHF contest club, W3SO

W3IDT:
60 year ARRL membership pin.
Very long time ARRL Life Member,
so long that I don't remember
w3idt@...
w3idt@...
-----------------------------------------------------

To other VHF contest operators:

If you support these arguments for rule changes, please raise you voice
by writing to your ARRL (and CQ) contest and administrative
representatives.  Either formulate a proposal in your own words, or
simply state that your support this proposal.

If you do NOT support this proposal, please let that be known to the
appropriate sponsors AND please send me a copy of your alternative
suggestions.

The list of the ARRL Board Program and Services Committee below is
complete (taken from the ARRL website early February 2020). This
committee tasks the ARRL Contest Advisory Committee with any study of
rule changes for ARRL contests.

A list of the ARRL Contest Advisory Committee is available at the
following website: ARRL Contest Committee:
http://www.arrl.org/arrl-staff-cac
Select your committee representative.

A list of the ARRL Division Directors and Vice directors is available at
the following website: ARRL Division Directors:
http://www.arrl.org/divisions
Select your Division representatives.

A list of the ARRL Section Managers is available at the following website:
ARRL Section Managers:
http://www.arrl.org/divisions
Select your Section manager.

The email addresses of ARRL Headquarter personnel, and the CQ VHF
Contest Manager are the same for all correspondents.

--------------------------------------------------------------
Distribution list:

ARRL Board Program and Services Committee:

      Matt Holden, K0BBC, Dakota Division Director, Chairman
      k0bbc@...

      Mickey Baker, N4MB, Southeastern Division Director
      [The website says N4MB@....
       But a "copy email address" produces "gsarratt@..."
       The N4MB@... is probably correct.]

      David Norris, K5UZ, Delta Division Director
      k5uz@...

      Mike Ritz, W7VO, Northwestern Division Director
      w7vo@...

      Rod Blocksome, N0DAS, Midwest Division Director
      k0das@...

      Ed Hudgens, WB4RHQ, Delta Division Vice Director
      wb4rhq@...

      Bob Vallio, W6RGG, 2nd Vice President (Officer Liaison)
      W6RGG@...

      Norm Fusaro, W3IZ, (Staff Liaison)
      w3iz@...

ARRL Regional Officers:

      Chas Fulp, k3ww, k3ww@...
          Contest Advisory Committee
          Atlantic Division
      Tom Abernathy, w3tom, w3tom@...
          Atlantic Division Director
      Bob Famiglio, k3rf, k3rf@...
          Atlantic Division Vice Director
      Joe Shupienis, w3bc, sm@...
          WPA Section Manager

ARRL HQ:
      Bart Jahnke, w9jj, w9jj@...
          ARRL Radiosport and Field Services Manager.
      Paul Bourque, n1sfe, n1sfe@...
          Contest Manager
      Kathy Allison, ka1rwy, ka1rwy@...
          RadioSport Associate

CQ VHF Contest Manager:

      John Kalenowsky, k9jk, k9jk.cq@...
          CQ WW VHF Contest Director



--

.............................
. Robert F. Teitel, W3IDT   .
.                           .
. W3IDT@...            .
. W3IDT@...         .
.............................

--

.............................
. Robert F. Teitel, W3IDT   .
.                           .
. W3IDT@...            .
. W3IDT@...         .
.............................                                   

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