“The Magic Band” Lives Up to its Name in ARRL June VHF Contest
From ARRL de WD1CKS@VERT/WLARB to QST on Wed Jun 15 15:59:00 2016
Six meters sounded more like an HF band during the ARRL June VHF Contest over the June 11-12 weekend, as sustained sporadic E (E-skip or Es) openings greeted participants, making it sound more like an HF band. Some found 6 meter contacts so bountiful that they tended to neglect the other VHF/UHF bands, where conditions were more typical.
"As for why the contest weekend was so good, all I can say is that June can be good for E-skip," said Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA, the former "Propagation" editor for National Contest Journal (NCJ). "I think the term 'sporadic' in its name is well suited. We just don't understand the detailed processes of 6 meter Es.
For many, it was a 6-meters-only event, with the best conditions in several years and much of the action on CW. "This was the consummate 50 MHz festival, with wide open bands throughout most of the contest," Bill Schwantes, W7QQ, in New Mexico, posted in his soapbox comments on the 3830 website. "For the first time in my memory I felt like a rate junkie, often reaching 200 per hour. What fun on 6, while ignoring long-haul, weak signal contacts on 144, 222, and 432.
Bob Striegl, K2DRH, who boasts some serious VHF-UHF antennas in upstate New York, said the band "was going crazy" in the evening from the East Coast to Europe, and to Japan from the Midwest and South. "In a lull I tuned up JA7QVI, who was the strongest, and worked him on CW with low power! I even saw some action to the Caribbean when ZF1EJ and several COs and KP4s called me in my pileup. I also made a QSO with EA8DBM on SSB, when he was a true S-9." The DX aside, Striegl's philosophy is that trying to score new DXCC entities in an event such as this just slows things down, since DX contacts count the same as any other.
Mike Smith, VE9AA, in New Brunswick called it "A VHF (6 meter) contest I can write home about." He was one station's first 6 meter contact, "and I was tickled to do that."
Top-tier HF contester Dan Street, K1TO, in Florida, made his first 6 meter contact with Japan during the ARRL VHF, only his third ever. "Conditions were amazingly different for all of us," Street said in his soapbox post. "I watched in awe as the W1s seemed to have a contest-long opening to somewhere. EA8DBM's skimmer made an incredible number of USA spots, and he worked stations out to the West Coast. Yet here in Florida, I never heard him once, nor even one European."
Eric Gruff, NC6K, in California also didn't get in on the excitement. "Another frustrating VHF contest from DM13," he posted. "[T]he majority of the time, I spent listening to the same local stations calling CQ incessantly while the rest of the country was enjoying a huge opening."
Charlie Panek, KX7L, in Washington, summed things up this way: "Every few years the planets line up right, and we get a good Es opening during the contest," he said. "This was one of those years!"
The terrific conditions persisted at least into the next day, when former ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, reported working 121 Europeans from Connecticut, including two new ones - Greece and Romania - bringing his DXCC total to 101 on the Magic Band.
Lightning could strike twice on the same band, when the SMIRK Contest takes place on June 18-19.