VHF-UHF Field Day Review

 

The "market has spoken" so now there is only distance-based scoring for future VHF-UHF field days, but this is also a good opportunity to review the rest of the rules for the field days, clarifying them to reduce different interpretations. These notes are my views and suggestions for the review.

 

1.     Keep the current system of an 8-hour log if operation is 8 hours or less, and allow either a 24-hour or an 8-hour log for longer periods of operation. Two non-overlapping 8-hour logs can also be submitted if one log is for operation as portable/rover and the other for home. However, each log MUST contain ALL the contacts made at that location during the field day.

 

2.    In line with the above choice, allow operation on any number of bands, but select the sub-section (one band, four bands, or all bands) when creating the log. As before, the log MUST contain ALL the contacts made during the field day.

 

3.    Keep the current 2-hour re-work period. That minimises idle time, and with current participation, there is still enough time to work every station in range.

 

4.     Keep the exchange of RS(T), even though it is usually just ‘59(9)’ as it is part of making a contact. Currently it is not checked, not even imported into the contest management software. Should it be checked?  If so, should it be actual conditions and what if no match?

 

5.     The “four band” sub-section should be extended to cover all VHF and UHF bands, that is, from 6m to 13cm inclusive, so that it becomes a "five band" or an actual "vhf-uhf" sub-section. That will advantage those that already have the five bands, but will also encourage others to improve their station. Many four band transceivers have facilities to operate with a 13cm transverter, and those transverters are now easily obtainable. (The field days have encouraged the use of higher and higher microwave bands, and the same should happen to the four band operators.)

 

6.     If the locators are the same at both ends of the contact, theoretically that results in zero points as zero distance is calculated. Five kilometers should be assumed for such contacts, as the average possible distance in the same 6-char locator is about 5km. That is done currently.

 

7.     It should be specified in the rules that 6-char locators are always used for distance calculations, but 8-char locators may be used and exchanged if desired to improve direction calculations.

 

8.     There should be a minimum number of contacts, say at least 5 or 10, to receive a certificate. Also there should be more than one station worked in the field day, say 2 or 3.  Working just one station for the whole contest seems artificial.

 

9. The mode that is used predominantly in field days is phone, either SSB or FM, with very little CW and even less digital, but neither is specifically allowed in the rules. To encourage these modes, they should be treated as separate modes from phone with their own re-work period of two hours, so that it would be possible to make up to three contacts with a station if appropriate knowledge and equipment is available at both ends. All contacts should have the same value.

 

10. Portable stations should be allowed to make one move to another location, the move being specified in terms of distance to get away from the use of 4-char locators. To check the distance using 6-char locators, the move would need to be at least 15 km. If the new location is worse, a return to the SAME previous location should be allowed, without treating the station as a rover.

 

11. With the current definition of Rover, stations need not travel any significant distance but circulate around a few Maidenhead locators, augmenting the scores of stationary stations in range. Again to get away from using 4-char locators, require a rover to move at least 15 km to activate another location, and a rover cannot return to within 15 km to any previously activated location, as measured using 6-char locators. (On the ground, it basically means that the eight 6-char locators surrounding an activated 6-char locator cannot be activated.) (See an alternative suggestion at the end.)

 

12. Rovers and other mobile stations should be stationary when contacts are made. (Contacts while moving, even by a passenger operator must be distracting to the driver and should be considered dangerous.)

 

13. There should be a page on the WIA web site where correct submission of a log can be verified. That is almost universal now for other contests. After all results have been published, logs should also be publicly available at the WIA web site, with email and address information removed. (This is done for CQ international contests since 2010, to provide transparency to the contest, among other advantages.)

 

14. Allow clubs to operate from their clubrooms as multi-operator "home" stations with only one transmitter on air at a time. (That would give them little if any advantage but allow the club to participate even if not going to the field.) If multiple operators are active, their log would be classified as a Check Log.

 

15. The field day starting time has been somewhat of a problem lately. Traditionally, the field day started at noon in the lower eastern States (NSW, Vic, Tas), that is , at 02:00 UTC in Winter and 01:00 UTC in Spring and Summer because of Daylight Saving Time in those States. For 2018 and 2019, 01:00 UTC was also specified in the rules as the starting time for Winter, which caused some confusion as the logging software had not been updated for that starting time in Winter. Many stations were happy to start at that time, so perhaps it should be made as a permanent starting time for all field days, with 04:00 UTC as the starting time in VK6.

 

 

16. This is an alternative suggestion for rover operation. The Rover section has very low participation, as it seems the rovers of yore are now slowing down. It is suggested that rovers have free reign as to their movement and only need to change the activated 6-char locator to be able to make repeat contacts with any station for full points. HOWEVER, the portable or home stations contacted would only receive full points if their previous full points contact with that rover was at least 2-hours ago. Contacts less than 2-hours apart would receive no points (or at most a token 5-points) but they would not be considered as duplicates as the activated locator at one end has changed. This approach would allow rovers free movement without distorting the scoring of portable and home station in the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Criteria for Log Checking

 

Cross-checking logs is a fair amount of work even with specially designed software. In general, only the correct contacts and those with simple errors can be automatically processed, but when an anomaly is found, it is up to the human operator to review the anomaly and decide what the problem actually may be and who may be at fault.

 

To make the effort worthwhile, there needs to be a well understood criteria for log checking that is fair to all concerned and encourages more accurate logging.  If it is too onerous, it will discourage participation, but if there is none or it is too lax, it may encourage some to ‘push the boundary’. As well as being fun, field days are also supposed to be 'practice runs' for emergency situations, and in emergency situations accuracy is very important. Somebody's life may depend on the exchanged information, an extreme case but not impossible.

 

The following are suggested for consideration:

 

1.     Cross-band contacts are mostly very difficult to resolve. (They have occurred even when both stations appear to be using OmniRig to read transceiver frequency, probably caused by being anxious to go to another band before finishing logging of contact).  Should they be allowed to stand as unresolved,  points reduced to the lower scoring band (as done now when unresolved), or should they be disallowed altogether for both stations?  (A 3cm to 2m contact, that has been seen, can be worth significantly different points at the two ends of the contact.)

 

2.     Cross-band contacts where it can be reasonably determined who is at fault are currently disallowed for the station deemed to be at fault. A station using OmniRig is considered more likely to be correct than the station that is not. Is that fair?

 

3.     Currently, sent sequence numbers are assumed to be correct, so if a received sequence number does not match, the contact is disallowed for the receiving station. However there is some indication that that may not always be true. It would seem to be more fair to disallow the contact for both stations. That would make it important for both stations to ensure that the exchange was correctly performed. (Or should they be ignored?)

 

4.     Contact logging time stamp differences range from 0 minutes to an hour or more. What should be done?  (In some international contests, contacts are disallowed for both stations if time stamp differs by more than three minutes.)  In this case, it is sometimes possible to determine the log at fault. More logs, no matter how small, helps.

 

5.     Worked locators are currently corrected if the worked station log is available, with a 25% reduction in points.  Should they be corrected or should the contact be disallowed?  If there is no penalty, there is no incentive to get them right, and the ‘boundary pushers’ may use wrong locators to get longer distance in the hope they are not corrected.

 

6.     Missing locators are not currently filled in, resulting in zero distance points for the contact.  Should they be filled in if the correspondent log is available or from other sources? Any penalty?

 

7.     Should the contest manager correct activated and/or worked locators where they are obviously wrong (eg. result in impossible contact distances) or that he suspects they could be wrong, even when there is no correspondent log for verification?

 

8.     Should relatively obvious errors in logs be corrected by contest manager?  For example, logging VK3AAP instead of VK3AA/P, or using dig-0 instead of char-O. They are obvious but serious errors. Currently all call signs logged incorrectly are disallowed.

 

9.     Should a cross-check be made for logging or not logging /P correctly? Should there be a penalty? Should there be bonus points for being and/or working portable stations, as there was initially with introductions of Division 2?

 

10. IF the 15km move for Rover stations is introduced and a Rover does not obey the requirement but activates a closer location, should there be a penalty for contacts from that location, for example, half points, or should they be disallowed? (There should be no penalty for worked stations, as they made the contact in good faith.)

 

11. A new log output format based on Cabrillo Ver 3 will be implemented in future releases of VKCL. A log in that format can also be manually prepared using Notepad. However, ALL log output formats used by VKCL will be accepted for log submission. Small, 50 contacts or less, other format logs, eg. paper, Word, pdf, etc. will also be accepted, but they will require transcription of the log into Cabrillo format by the contest manager, which is time consuming and error prone. All care is taken but no responsibility is accepted for errors introduced by the process.

 

12. Only logs uploaded to the WIA web site (and small paper logs received by the WIA office by mail) before the deadline for submission would be eligible to receive certificates. Logs received 'soon' after the deadline may still be included in the results but marked as “Check Logs - not eligible for certificates”. Currently 15 days are allowed for log submission, and it takes about another 5 to 7 days to to review all errors and prepare the preliminary results. Should the time be reduced to 8 days for log submission?

 

13. Should "Check Logs" be scored and listed in the results tables, as is done currently? In most contests, check logs are just listed at the end with no other information.

 

14. Duplicate contacts are avoided by most operators as they are considered as "bad". Actually the only thing bad about them is that they may take a bit of time to log but not receive any points at the end. There is never any penalty for duplicate contacts. Sometimes they may become "good" contacts if an issue arises with your previous contact with that station. So never decline to log a duplicate contact if the other station wants to, and higher density of contacts can help in cross-checking the logs too.

 

 

Mike, VK3AVV,  17 Apr 2016. Revised 4 Oct 2017, 7 Nov 2019