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                      "I CAN'T DO A THING WITH MY STATION!"
            This is the second article in a series on basic VHF  contest-
        ing,  the  goal  of which is to make us all mindful  of  what  it 
        really  takes  to be competitive in contests:  attention  to  the 
             With that out of the way, let's move on to this month's  sub-
        ject,  which is contest stations. Station preparation takes  more 
        time  than anything else, so it will be addressed first in  terms 
        of contest strategy.
            The  first question that most aspiring contesters ask is  how 
        much  station  do I  really need to be  competitive?  The  answer 
        varies  for everyone, but for most people, the answer is not  all 
         answer is not  all 
        that  much. Really good stations don't happen all at  once,  they 
        require years of work and a lot amount of money to put  together.  
        The  point  I am trying to make here is that you  don't  have  to 
        start out with stacked arrays on tall towers, fed with gas filled 
        line  from kilowatt amps. Set reasonable goals for yourself,  and 
        rate yourself with other stations that have similar equipment.
            A  few years ago, a good friend of mine scored 29,000  points  
        single-op in the January contest with 4 bands and no more than 25 
        watts on any band. His antennas and location were lousy, and  the 
        station contained older, and in some cases even tube-type  equip-
        ment.  As in all amateur radio contesting, how the  equipment  is 
        utilized is more important than what it is.
            A Typical home station, (in Rochester, anyway) has two meters 
        and  70  CM FM rigs. There is a good chance it has  a  six  meter 
        station of some type. Many local hams have sideband capability on 
        one or more bands. Antennawise, there are vertical FM antennas in 
        the attic, or even in the shack. If it has any outdoor  antennas, 
        chances  are it has at least one VHF vertical, possibly a  modest 
        beam  for 2 meters. Any combination of this equipment  is  suffi-
        cient to be reasonably competitive in Januaompetitive in January.
            Why is this so? The answer is the high level of local  activ-
        ity.  Especially on FM, there are so many stations out  there  to 
        work, it will keep you busy just trying to work all of them. With 
        just  a small beam, it is possible to do some moderately  serious 
        DX, even on FM. I have heard W2SZ (FN32) on many an occasion on 2 
        meter  FM  and many people work them there. FN14, over  the  lake 
        into Canada is very easy,  even on 70 cm.  So, don't write off FM 
        as a strictly 'local' mode.
            Even if all you have is an H/T, get on. You WILL make  plenty 
        of contacts. You WILL have fun. Getting up higher will help.  For 
        even more fun, drive across town with your H/T and make even more 
        contacts. (You aren't considered a rover unless you cross a  grid 
        square line.) Log with a tape recorder while mobile.
            If you have even one band on sideband, capitalize on it!  You 
        are almost guaranteed to work some DX stations (Outside the local 
        four grids) even with a vertical whip.
            If  your VHF gear is all in the car, consider going  hilltop-
        ping or roving. The 'four corners' is not that far away, nor  are 
        several  good hills. Cobb's Hill park is an excellent high  spot. 
        Woodcliff,  on route 96 in Victor is another good  hilltop  spot. 
        Remember,  you can operate your fixed station AND rove, and  turn 
        in separate logs for each. (More about that next month.)
            If you have built a 10 GHz transceiver, or laser rig, get out 
        and  use  them! I'd love to see a log with 10 or  more  QSO's  on 
            If you are building or improving your station, here are  some 
        suggestions for easy improvements:
             1. Headphones. Using headphones with your radio is like a
                3-6 dB boost in sensitivity. This works with any radio.
             2. Antennas. Your antennas are by and far, the most import-
                ant part of your station. Any improvement here will most
                certainly be a good return on your investment. Try to 
                get your antennas higher (Even the attic is better than
                in your shack or basement!). And, if you can, a direct-
                ional antenna (such as a beam) will vastly improve your
                station performance. Don't forget to use good feedline,
                such as RG-213, or better yet, 9913, or you will lose
                everything  your new antenna gained. Even  a  telescoping
                whip on an H/T, or a mag-mount mobile antenna on a cookie
                sheet  will help these small radios dramatically. A  mag-
                mount also makes hilltopping or roving easier.
             3. More bands. For   3. More bands. For a typical small station, adding a band
                will do more to your score than anything else. It doesn't
                have to be sideband; FM will do.(But sideband is better!)
                You don't have to buy a rig. Ask a friend if you can
                borrow an unused rig. That way, you can experience a new
                band without the financial implications, and get a better
                idea of what you want when you can afford it.
             4. Increase power. Adding a 80-100 watt 'brick' to a typical
                mobile or base VHF rig will do much to improve your
                station. It can provide that bit of an edge that could
                make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful
             5. Preamps. There are a number of inexpensive, RF-switched
                preamps available that can be mounted at your antenna.
                They aren't as easy to add as more power, but may do more
                to help your station.

            The subject of VHF station design could fill a book. I  don't 
        have  room to cover every possibility for easy  improvement.  Ask 
        your friends for ideas. Ask a 'big gun' contester for ideas.  You 
        can  even ask me. In fact, if you ever have any  questions  about 
        VHF contesting, don't hesitate to ask me and I will do my best to 
        answer them. I want t answer them. I want to see you on the air!
            One  last thought: The most important equipment in your  sta-
        tion is YOU!

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