Your fellow amateur radio operators need your help. Three times a year the ARRL sponsors a VHF/UHF contest. These contest events are held in January, June, and September. All licensed operators may participate and they are not required to submit a log of their contacts, nor are they required to be a member of the ARRL. While some enjoy the competition and submit a log of their confirmed QSO’s, others enjoy making contacts to see how well their station setup is working. In order to participate, each operator must provide their callsign and grid square. A typical calling station may say, “CQ Contest W6KKO DM07” on standard FM simplex frequencies, and their call sign and grid square phonetically when calling on standard SSB frequencies.
Rick: CQ contest W6KKO DM07
Rob: W6KKO AE6GE DM06
Rick: AE6GE please copy DM07
The exchange may differ to some degree from operator to operator, but the exchange of callsign and the first four characters of their respective grid square must occur. It is relatively quick and concise and nothing else is needed.
The ARRL website provides a reasonable description of grid squares, “What are grid squares? Well, they’re more like rectangles and are just a way of dividing up the surface of the Earth. Grid squares are a shorthand means of describing your general location anywhere on the Earth in a manner that is easy to communicate over the air.” To find out your grid square location, take a look at this website and enter in your zip code. Make a note of the first four characters after the word “Grid:” http://www.levinecentral.com/ham/grid_square.php
Grid square static map: http://www.w9dup.org/images/grid_square_map_1.png
Grid square dynamic map: http://qthlocator.free.fr/index.php
Operators that are south of Madera down to Porterville and east of Kerman past the Sierra’s over to Lone Pine are in grid square DM06, but that is an approximate. Using the dynamic map link above, one can pin point the location from where they will transmit and obtain their grid square designator. The grid square details exceed four characters, but only the first four are needed.
Additional important items to note are when the contests occur and what frequencies are generally used for the contests. Although operators may not have SSB mode for some of these frequencies, they typically have FM capability from home, mobile, or even an HT.
2017 VHF/UHF Contest Dates: (11:00AM Pacific Saturday until 8:00PM Sunday)
January, 21 – 22
June, 10 – 11
September, 9 – 10
In order to keep things friendly, operators will periodically announce on a call frequency an alternate frequency they will monitor. This keeps the main frequencies reasonably free for all to use. While it is not a rule, it is a courtesy. There is nothing wrong with making contacts on the above frequencies, as long as we give each other a chance to make a contact. If an operator is shy about calling, that’s fine too. When you hear an operator calling CQ contest, they will be happy to hear your call sign and grid square. Should you want to submit your log of confirmed contacts, the ARRL website provides extensive details about categories, frequency and power limitations, as well as log format for submission. http://www.arrl.org/contests
Remember, it is about having fun and the only way to learn is to try. I hope to hear you on the air during the VHF/UHF contests in 2017 and beyond.