VAQP 2022 Stories

K4AKO/M Zach

Assisted by my wife both years for logging. Somehow, I was able to convince her this would be fun, and it turns out, she likes riding shotgun and logging (see pic 1).

2nd Year Competing VAQP
Last Year I was a new HAM and got a total of around 15-18 contacts with 6 hrs on Skyline Drive. This year I spent 18 hrs total and planned a route through almost all of NOVA and travelled around 350 Miles, logged 102 Contacts across 23 counties and cities with a small Larsen 1/4 wave 2/70 whip (see pic 2). Overall, I worked hard for those 102 contacts, and I would say it was a huge success over last year. (See pic 3)
Furthest Contact Estimated at around 60 Miles. Shortest Contact Estimated around 20ft. I was parked behind KO4NMC and didn’t know it. After listening to him describe his RV to another contester I realized I contacted him when I was parked two parking spaces away. No wonder he was coming in so strong.
I got to meet up with Andy (K1RA) and Terry (W8ZN) in the super awesome Comm Van both at the beginning on Skyline Drive (pic 4) and later near the end in Manassas (pic 5).
Next year I plan to up my antenna game and beat the contact count of 102.

KW4VA/M MM – K1RA Andy and W8ZN Terry

A few pix I managed to take while we were running between sites over the weekend. We hit all 14 counties on Saturday as expected along Skyline Dr and north thru FRE, CLA & LDN.
Sunday, we quit around 4P as we were running late and then hit bad traffic on I-95S, which caused us to abort and head back to my house. We only activated 7 – FAU, PRW, MAX, MPX, FFX, FXX and FCX of the planned 14 on Sunday.
We entered the new multi-op. multi-transmitter mobile category this year, sponsored by Justin NB3A. We ran a K3 80-10m SSB & CW with a 53′ pneumatic mast as a vertical, and an IC-9100 with a CB whip for HF and various V/UHF antennas for 50-1296 MHz.
We ran across fellow club members Zac K4AKO and his wife several times Sat. & Sun., as well as Nic KO4IUM and Bri KO4NLR on Skyline Dr. on Sat. and a few other hams too.
Terry W8ZN and I entered the new M/M Mobile category after re-outfitting our K8GP V/UHF contest rover for HF. We ran a K3 with a collapsible mast for 80-10m CW & SSB and an IC-9100 with a CB whip + various V/UHF antennas to cover 40m to 23cm. We ran completely off batteries, a home grown 400A/hr. Lithium Ion Phosphate pack.

Saturday we started at STX & WAX then spent all day on Skyline Drive driving north and then hit FRE, CLA & LDN by 11PM. Sunday we planned another 14 counties. We started at PRW & FAU on Bull Run Mtn and after a delay hit 5 more counties along Rt 66 until we hit FCX. We skipped ARL & ALX to head south to STA to get back on schedule, but after running into bad traffic on I-95S we ended up stopping and ended the contest early in PRW, making a few more DX contacts on our way back home by 4PM.

It seemed like V/UHF activity was down, but 40m rocked giving us half our QSOs. It was great to be followed by several DX stations (DL3DXX[19], OM2VL[18], LY5W[13]) who snagged us numerous time on 80-15m CW.

It was fun to come across FARA members Zak K4AKO and his wife several times Sat. & Sun. and also Nic KO4IUM and Bri KO4NLR on Skyline Dr. There were a few other straggler ham mobiles and non-hams who came by to gawk at our setup as well. We didn’t have much time to talk as we were only scheduled for 30-40 minutes per stop, but we did entertain questions and gave a little show and tell to satisfy their interests.

W4GO/M Matt

This was a multi-op mobile operation. The driver was W4GO. The radio operator was also W4GO. This year we also welcomed a third operator, W4GO, who is assigned the support jobs like pumping gas, running in the store for food, and talking to curious passers-by. He has to ride in the trunk for now. You can’t do this without teamwork. Seriously, though. Thanks for riding along on my fifth consecutive mobile run in the VAQP. I missed the familiar voices from the last four years of SSB but enjoyed working many new chasers on CW this time. CW isn’t my native habitat, and it shows. Managing a big and very “eager” CW pile-up is … interesting! Still, I was pleased with how things went. I was not using any decoder but the one between the ears. While CW is perhaps more taxing for the mind than SSB, it is easier on the ears over long periods. Pretty easy on the voice, too. Another change this year was to put considerably more time into the bands open to Western NA and EU. This meant trading off VA county/city multis for states, provinces and DX entities. As anticipated, my total multiplier count is quite a bit lower than previous years, although that not only reflects the difference in band selection but also fewer VA counties/cities active on CW than on SSB by fixed stations. An additional wrinkle was the use of a different vehicle this year in which I installed an HF station the week before the contest. Thanks to KA4RRU for lending a heavy-duty magnet mount on short notice. This vehicle posed some new RFI challenges. The hat-less antenna, smaller vehicle body, and use of a mag-mount (though bonded to the body with radial wires) resulted in a less efficient antenna system than my usual rover. I was running a bit less TX power. Even so, the equipment performed well. In any case, I was happy with the volume of QSOs from Western NA and EU. Time spent in previous mobile VAQP runs looking for those regions on SSB had generally been disappointing, but this year on CW it was very productive. The EU participants in this contest are not numerous but they are enthusiastic. OM2VL was my most frequent flyer from any region with 32 QSOs, followed closely by DL3DXX (30) and LY5W (25). KA6BIM and W5TM (both 20 QSOs) rounded out the top five chasers. In total, 318 stations were worked, of which 27 were worked ten or more times. Much as on SSB mobile runs, as the weekend progressed and the recurring call signs made their way into the log and my head, I benefited from picking up on their individual operating styles and from being able to guess, usually correctly, who was calling by catching only a couple of characters out of a pile-up. To give an example, at one point I realized that if I heard a “2” or “Q” low in audio frequency near the cutoff of my 300 Hz filter, while on a band open to NY, it was always WA2JQK. He took the express lane around the pileups by offsetting from zero-beat, and the fact that he was consistent worked further to our advantage. 28 counties/cities were activated in the following order: RIC, LAN, NUM, MID, MAT, GLO, KQN, KWM, NEW, JAM, WMX, NNX, PQX, YOR, HAX, NFX, VBX, POX, CPX, SUX, IOW, SHA, SUR, SUS, PRG, PBX, HOX, CCY.
The daytime photo was my operating site in Middlesex Co. at the mouth of the Rappahannock. Beautiful spot, visually and electrically. No utility line RFI, and the brackish water improves the gain of a vertical antenna on HF.
The night shots are a good illustration of two points: why you do need that little sphere at the top of an antenna whip; and why you should avoid transmitting at the fuel pump, particularly if you removed the little sphere.