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ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter
October 21, 2021
John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, Editor
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Enjoy Two Weekends of Fun During the ARRL November Sweepstakes

The ARRL November Sweepstakes (SS) weekends loom large on the amateur radio contest horizon. The CW weekend is November 6 - 8, while the phone weekend is November 20 - 22. Both events begin on Saturday at 2100 UTC and conclude on Monday at 0259 UTC.

The SS offers operating categories for every preference. The goal for many seasoned SS operators is to complete a "clean sweep" by contacting all 84 ARRL and Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) Sections. Canada's Prince Edward Island province joined the list last year. Most SS operators try to run up the contact and multiplier counts and stay in the chair for the full 24 (out of 30) allowable hours.

The competition can be fierce, and the pileups can be huge. In 2020, ARRL received 1,445 logs for the CW event and 2,046 for the phone event.

Some Sections are harder to contact than others. Northern Territories (NT) is always a challenge, but there's a slim chance that snagging NT could be easier this year.

Gerry Hull, W1VE (also VE1RM), is hoping to operate as VY1AAA for both weekends, using "J" Allen's, VY1JA, Yukon Territory station remotely from the US. Now in his mid-70s, Allen essentially retired from ham radio a few years ago due to health issues, but he's bounced back this year with renewed enthusiasm and working to get a station and antennas ready for Hull to operate. At this point, he's sorting through a backyard scrap pile that includes tower sections he had up in the past. He wants to get 80 - 100 feet assembled and clamped to a sturdy utility pole. Hull says Allen is committed to the task.

The VY1JA tower boneyard. [Photo courtesy of J Allen, VY1JA]

"VY1JA is now in re-construction," Allen says on his profile. "There is only a small chance that it will be done and on the air for SS CW this year. If so, signals may be weaker than in the past, with only a 100 W Omni VII and wire antennas. Plans for building an amp failed, and antenna work has taken far longer than expected."

Hull said if Allen does manage to erect the antenna support tower, VY1AAA will have inverted V antennas for 20 and 40 meters, which Hull considers "the money bands from Yukon on CW."

"So, hoping for good weather and good health for J, and then we might have VY1AAA on for the masses for SS CW," he said. Hull said if the CW weekend is successful, he'll consider also operating in the phone event.

Other difficult Sections to contact include Delaware, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Pacific, and North Dakota. (Alaska, Hawaii and other US territories in the ARRL Pacific Section, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands count as W/VE stations, not as DX, for the SS.)

Contesters, especially the less experienced, often want to know how to handle duplicate contacts (dupes). It's almost a given that this will happen in SS. While some operators still set up a "hot key" to send "WKD B4" on CW when encountering a dupe, current best practice is to work the apparent dupe, log it, and move on. While dupes don't earn any points, they also don't mean you'll incur a NIL (not-in-log) penalty if the apparent dupe did not log the initial contact for one reason or another.

The SS exchange is patterned on traffic-handling terminology. For both the CW and phone events, stations exchange a sequential serial number (no leading zeros are required), an operating category (precedence), call sign, the last two digits of the year first licensed (check), and ARRL/RAC Section.

Most areas of the US change from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time at 2 AM local time on November 7, by moving clocks back 1 hour. UTC is not affected.

Logs are due within 7 days after the event is over. Certificates will be awarded in the top operator CW and Phone scores in each category in each ARRL/RAC Section and Division, and plaques will be awarded to the Overall and Division winners. Icom America is the principal awards sponsor.

An operating guide that relates some of the history and evolution of these North American contests is available under "Operating Guidelines" on the ARRL November Sweepstakes page.

ARDC Grants to Fund Amateur Radio Project Expansions

Two recent Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) grants will benefit the Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club (SBARC), K6TZ, and Oregon HamWAN.

A $35,550 grant will enable SBARC to construct an amateur radio station at the new Chrisman California Islands Center (CCIC) in downtown Carpinteria, California, at the invitation of the Santa Cruz Island Foundation (SCIF). According to Levi Maaia, K6LCM, who is the K6TZ club call sign trustee, the station is scheduled to open in 2022. SBARC promotes education and training programs for anyone interested in ham radio. It also encourages and sponsors experiments in electronics and promotes the highest standards of practice and ethics in the conduct of communications.

The station will be prominently located near the CCIC main entrance. An interactive display will provide an overview of amateur radio communications and the role that amateur radio has played in the history of the islands.

When the station is not staffed, visitors can interact with it using a custom touchscreen that controls an interactive presentation on amateur radio and wireless technologies and their importance to mariners, aviators, scientists, and explorers who visit the rugged islands off the California coast. Webcams connected to the station via SBARC's microwave data network will offer visitors a view of the island's terrain in real time.

An ARRL-Affiliated club, SBARC already maintains open repeaters, data systems, and a club station in Santa Barbara County under the K6TZ call sign.

Oregon HamWAN has received an ARDC grant of $88,000 to expand its digital communications network. The project aims to enhance amateur radio digital and emergency communications capabilities between Portland and Salem, Oregon.

The nonprofit plans to expand its digital communications network by deploying 12 network backbone distribution sites between the two cities. Eventually, the sites will connect to the Puget Sound Data Ring, which currently extends from Seattle to Vancouver, Washington. The network would allow emergency management personnel to communicate in the event of a disaster, such as a major earthquake, that disrupts telecommunications systems. In such cases, amateur radio operators will be able to quickly set up network nodes where they are needed to provide emergency communication via the Oregon HamWAN digital network. "This will be a game changer for emergency communications in the Portland area," said Herb Weiner, AA7HW, the Oregon HamWAN Project Leader.

"Deciding to fund [the] Oregon HamWAN project was an easy decision," said ARDC Grants Advisory Committee Chair John Hays, K7VE. "It is a well-organized and well-staffed project that uses multiple amateur radio technologies, such as the 44Net IP address space, 5 GHz radios, and proven software methodologies. It will provide a strong backbone network in Oregon and help preserve our microwave bands."

ARDC is a California-based private foundation that supports innovative amateur radio projects. The foundation makes grants for projects and organizations that follow amateur radio's practice and tradition of technical experimentation in both amateur radio and digital communication science.

ARRL Podcasts Schedule

The latest episode of the On the Air podcast (Episode 22) will feature a discussion with Chris Plumblee, W4WF, about contesting and what this activity has to offer new amateurs.

The latest episode of the Eclectic Tech podcast (Episode 45) will feature a discussion about the current status of amateur television with Jim Andrews, KH6HTV, as well as a brief description of an unusual "sound dampening screw."

The On the Air and Eclectic Tech podcasts are sponsored by Icom. Both podcasts are available on iTunes (iOS) and Stitcher (Android) as well as on Blubrry -- On the Air | Eclectic Tech.

Hams Support Chicago Marathon

A team of 135 radio amateurs from four states supported medical teams volunteering for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 10. The Chicago Marathon is the third largest marathon in the world. This marked the 13th year that amateur radio volunteers have partnered with the marathon medical team to help coordinate responses, arrange for deployment of medical supplies, and provide situational awareness for the organizers.

The largely flat marathon course has 20 aid stations on its 26.2-mile course, each with a medical tent. Hams are deployed at each medical tent to support communication for the medical teams.

There are two main communication nets: a medical net and a logistics net, and nine repeaters support these nets. Most of the repeaters belong to local clubs, but five temporary repeaters are also deployed.

In addition to passing urgent medical and health-and-welfare traffic, ham radio volunteers also provide situational awareness for race organizers, such as updating the number of individuals under care at each medical tent. Hams at each medical tent are also responsible for changing the event alert flag, which informs runners of course conditions so they can adjust their pace. This year, the flags were changed to red because of the humidity and an increased potential for serious heat-related injuries.

Most communication is done via FM repeaters. If a runner develops a problem, spotters alert a rapid-response medical team, each with a ham volunteer to handle communication. In serious situations, hams can call into the Forward Command post to dispatch medical assistance. Ten ham volunteers in Forward Command serve as net controls, traffic handlers, logging specialists, and expediters.

Ham radio volunteers at the Chicago Marathon Med Team #4 Tent [Photo courtesy of Rob Orr, K9RST]

The event provides plenty of personal challenges. Many ham volunteers report to their duty stations very early in the morning to conduct roll calls at 6 AM, and many remain on course until the event ends at around 4 PM. The hams and the medical teams must adjust to the weather as well. Hams also serve the aid stations where race volunteers dispense water and Gatorade. In the event of an emergency, hams shadow the aid station captain to facilitate communication with Forward Command.

Even in an era of ubiquitous cell phones, ham radio remains able to provide an independent resource that can back up all other communication.

Read an expanded version in this week's edition of The ARES Letter. -- Thanks to Rob Orr, K9RST, via The ARES Letter

ARRL Learning Network Webinars

Visit the ARRL Learning Network (a members-only benefit) to register, check on upcoming webinars, and to view previously recorded sessions.

More webinars are coming soon. Check the website for updated information.

ARRL members may register for upcoming presentations and view previously recorded Learning Network webinars. ARRL-affiliated radio clubs may also use the recordings as presentations for club meetings, mentoring new and current hams, and discussing amateur radio topics.

The ARRL Learning Network schedule is subject to change.

Golden Globe Sailing Race Entrants Banned from Using Amateur Radio

The use of amateur radio by participants in the 2022 - 23 Golden Globe Race (GGR) -- an around-the-world sailing competition -- has been banned. Race organizers put the restriction in place because of unlicensed use of amateur radio equipment in the 2018 - 19 event, Yachting Monthly reported. In the 2018 - 19 race, Estonian skipper Uku Randmaa, ES1UKU, was penalized after seeking weather routing (the best route according to wind and weather conditions) via ham radio. While he escaped disqualification, he did receive a 72-hour penalty. Randmaa received weather routing information from Bob McLeod, VP8LP, who advised Randmaa, "The more north you go, the quicker you get out of the wind hole.

The race rules say, "Entrants are free to speak to media, family, friends, and sponsors by radio at any time during the event, but must not be given any form of weather routing." But in the next sentence, the rules allow competitors to "communicate freely (by radio or by hailing) with other competitors, or other mariners on vessels at sea, requesting or giving any verbal information/advice whatsoever, even if this is considered weather routing."

The GGR rules that were spelled out in the Notice of Race require at least a 125 W marine MF/HF radio transceiver with a frequency range of at least 1.6 to 29.9 MHz, "fitted in a 100% watertight enclosure (able to be sealed in any storm) with permanently installed antenna and [ground] and an emergency antenna when the regular antenna depends upon the permanent Backstay."

The rules make clear that, "Any proven breach of International radio telecommunication regulations, such as transmitting on illegal maritime frequencies, may result in a time penalty. Ham Radio transmissions are specifically banned."

According to Yachting Monthly, the change has caused concern within the race community, "with some of the 2018 entrants highlighting difficulties in picking up Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) frequencies in the Southern Ocean due to the shrinking of the broadcasting network as more mariners rely on satellite communication."

The approximately 30,000-mile GGR solo circumnavigation starts and ends in Les Sables-d'Olonne, France. It has four rendezvous "gates" along the way. [Maxine Heath image]

"This is a retro race with skippers restricted to using a sextant [a navigation instrument used to measure altitudes of celestial bodies], paper charts, and wind-up chronometers, just as Sir Robin Knox-Johnston used in the first Sunday Times Golden Globe Race 50 years ago," Race Chairman Don McIntyre has explained.

In the 2018 race, some GGR skippers who operated on ham radio frequencies using bogus call signs were asked to stop operating.

GGR monitors all severe weather with winds over 40 knots and, if appropriate, provides both forecasting and routing information to assist entrants in sailing safely.

Amateur Radio in the News

ARRL Public Information Officers, Coordinators, and many other member-volunteers help keep amateur radio and ARRL in the news.

Share any amateur radio media hits you spot with us.

  • ARRL's YouTube channel, ARRLHQ, has launched a series of amateur radio Technician-class license courses. This series of videos features Dave Casler, KE0OG, QST's "Ask Dave" columnist, who leads viewers through The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual. These videos supplement the manual and provide an overview of the sections students will study, along with a few videos on how things work. Share this excellent resource with those who are preparing to take the Technician exam, and visit the ARRLHQ YouTube channel for more great amateur radio videos.

  • Radio Club Argentina celebrates its 100th anniversary on October 21. Special event station L21RCA has been active throughout the year.

  • The WRTC 2022 organizing committee has announced final qualification standings for team leaders and teammates. The organizers note that WRTC 2022 has been postponed until July 2023.

  • The International DX Association (INDEXA) has a new mailing address. It is 2309 Lincoln Ave., Saint Albans, WV 25177.

  • A free General-class licensing course via Zoom will begin on Thursday, October 28 and continue through Thursday, January 13 -- nine sessions in all, plus 3 weeks off for the holidays in November and December. Rol Anders, K3RA, will be the instructor. Sessions will start at 6:30 PM ET (2230 UTC on October 28; 2330 UTC thereafter) and run for 3 hours. Classes are sponsored by the National Electronics Museum. To sign up, email Anders.

  • Bob Bruninga, WB4APR, reports that the NO-104 satellite has been enabled for APRS-to-voice (A2V) mode. Information on how to use this and other features of this satellite is on the PSAT2 website. "PSAT2 voltage telemetry has failed, so we will turn the PSAT2 user modes on as long as they work," Bruninga said.

In Brief...

The November issue of QST includes the article, "The Beverage Antenna, 100 Years Later," by Ward Silver, N0AX, and Frank Donovan, W3LPL. The famous receiving antenna, designed and patented in 1921 by Harold Beverage, 2BML, remains popular for the low bands as increasing sunspot activity in Solar Cycle 25 leads to weaker signals on 160 and 80 meters. The article explains the Beverage antenna's noise-rejection abilities, as well as how to build a basic Beverage antenna system. The November issue also includes a special contesting insert, "Contest Season 2021 - 2022," which is full of resources and hints to help you have your best radiosport season yet.

The Yasme Foundation Board of Directors has announced a grant to the Seychelles Amateur Radio Association (SARA). The funds will go toward establishing a facility for its recently formed (2018) amateur radio club. The Yasme Foundation also announced that Steve Babcock, VE6WZ, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, is the latest recipient of its Excellence Award. This honor is presented to individuals and groups who, through their own service, creativity, effort, and dedication, have made a significant contribution to amateur radio. The Yasme Foundation cited Babcock's contributions to the art of low-band antennas and remote operating. Babcock has made countless hours of instructional videos, which are available to the amateur community for free via his profile. The Yasme Excellence Award is given in the form of a cash grant and an individually engraved crystal globe.

The 2021 AMSAT-UK International Space Colloquium will take place as a Zoom webinar on October 24. It will run from 0945 until 1500 UTC. AMSAT-UK membership is not required, but participants are asked to register before October 24. The 2021 colloquium will also be livestreamed via YouTube. Each presentation will be followed by a 5-minute Q&A session, and Zoom participants will be able to pose questions to the speakers. The AMSAT-UK Annual General Meeting will follow the colloquium and, after a short break, there will be an informal evening discussion session on "all things satellite."

The new Youth category for the CQ World Wide DX Contest (CQ WW, phone) will debut October 30 - 31. The category covers contesters age 25 years old or younger and applies not only to the phone event but the CW weekend, November 27 - 28. International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Region 2 (the Americas) is one of several organizations sponsoring plaques for the top young scorers. In Region 2, plaques will be awarded to the top Youth score in each CQ WW event in North America and South America -- four in all. Youth plaques are sponsored by other entities for participants from all continents in both events. Unlicensed listeners can log all the stations they hear and compare with other shortwave listener (SWL) logs. Certificates are available for everyone submitting a contest log.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: Solar activity declined last week, and October 17 saw no sunspots at all. Most days this week had the minimum non-zero sunspot number, which is 11, indicating a single sunspot group containing a single sunspot.

The average daily sunspot number declined from 23.7 to 11.3, and average daily solar flux dropped by 7 points from 85.6 to 78.6.

Geomagnetic indicators were quiet, with average planetary A index declining from 12.4 to 8.4, and average middle latitude A index from 10.1 to 5.4.

Despite the lower activity, I did notice some 10- and 12-meter openings here at my location in Seattle.

Predicted solar flux appears lower too, with values at 76 on October 21 - 22; 80 on October 23 - 25; 82 on October 26 - 28; 88 on October 29 - 30; 85 on October 31 - November 11; 80 on November 12 - 20; 85, 90, 95, and 90 on November 21 - 24; 88 on November 25 - 26, and 85 through the end of November.

Predicted planetary A index is 10 and 8 on October 21 - 22; 5 on October 23 - November 1; 8 on November 2; 5 on November 3 - 5; 12, 10, and 8 on November 6 - 8; 5 on November 9 - 13; 12 on November 14 - 15; 8 on November 16 - 18; 5 on November 19 - 20; 10 on November 21, and 5 on November 22 - 28.

Sunspot numbers for October 14 - 20 were 24, 11, 11, 0, 11, 11, and 11, with a mean of 11.3. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 83.4, 84, 77.6, 77.4, 75.9, 76, and 75.9, with a mean of 78.6. Estimated planetary A indices were 7, 6, 6, 10, 10, 14, and 6, with a mean of 8.4. Middle latitude A index was 6, 4, 3, 5, 6, 9, and 5, with a mean of 5.4.

A comprehensive K7RA Solar Update is posted Fridays on the ARRL website. For more information concerning radio propagation, visit the ARRL Technical Information Service, read "What the Numbers Mean...," and check out the Propagation Page of Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA.

A propagation bulletin archive is available. For customizable propagation charts, visit the VOACAP Online for Ham Radio website.

Share your reports and observations.

Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • October 23 - 24 -- ARRL EME Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • October 23 - 24 -- UK/EI DX Contest, SSB

  • October 23 - 24 -- Stew Perry Topband Challenge (CW)

  • October 24 -- North American SSB Sprint

  • October 24 - 26 -- UHF Telephone Pioneers QSO Party (CW, phone, digital)

  • October 24 - 27 -- Classic Exchange, CW

  • October 27 -- SKCC Sprint (CW)

  • October 27 -- UKEICC 80-Meter Contest (CW)

  • October 28 -- RSGB 80-Meter Autumn Series, SSB

Upcoming Section, State, and Division Conventions

Some conventions and hamfests may have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Check the calendar of canceled events on the ARRL website.

Find conventions and hamfests in your area.

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The ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter offers a weekly summary of essential news of interest to active amateurs that is available in advance of publication in QST, our official journal. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise and readable.

Much of the ARRL Letter content is also available in audio form in ARRL Audio News.

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