After watching DXMaps the last couple of days and through the day yesterday, it appeared we just might have a chance at some early season sporadic E. I was on the fence about the Sprint and didn't think it would be much fun if it only produced the same amount of activity that was seen locally during the previous 2, 222 & 432 activities.
It turned out there was a reasonable amount of activity, although it was limited to the upper Mississippi River valley area (Minneapolis area, eastern Dakota's and central Wisconsin to U.P. of Michigan). Some Chicago and vicinity stations were worked, but most of the more southern contacts were on ionoscatter. Some EN35 stations were well over S9 for several hours.
I went in with the intention of avoiding using FT8 unless there was no other choice. I'm still trying to decide if there exists enough SSB activity to continue serious effort on my part in the summer VHF contests. I was able to generate some action on SSB starting about 30 min into the Sprint by CQing on the traditional calling frequency. The runs were very limited, even though stations were available and, not surprisingly, nobody told me to get the heck off the calling frequency. After maybe 15 minutes on .125, I got a little self-conscious about being there and moved to .127 for the remainder of the opening. I worked maybe 60 Qs in 2.5 hours, which isn't really too good from a June or July perspective, but being a limited interest contest and having a very small Es footprint, I guess it wasn't too bad. SSB contacts became scarce with maybe 45 minutes left to go and I switched to FT8 to answer stations which were new multipliers. I never CQed on FT8 which would probably have added another 5-10 Qs. At the end, even though the entire band was empty of signals except on the FT8 "channel", digital signals were still S9+. So much for utilizing the "weak signal" capability of the mode. Also, all during my SSB 'runs', where some phone signals were 40 over 9, the FT8 channel stayed (over)crowded. It's obvious many 6M ops simply stay on FT8 regardless of QRM and signal strength, even though high run rate on SSB was guaranteed.
At the end, it was enough to keep me in the chair for the full 4 hours and to answer some of my questions about the future of contesting on 6. I think the jury decision on future participation has yet to be read, but the members are coming back into the courtroom.
W9RM 6M Spring Sprint
87x43 = 3,741
Club: New Mexico VHF Society
Equipment: Yaesu FT920+KW; 7el@45' & 5el fixed at 300 deg@ 30'
As of now, 1st place high power outside 1-land