VHF Contesting, Spectrum Threats, & the Rover “Grid Circling” Debates

For those that are active in the VHF/UHF+ Contesting facet of the Amateur Radio (AR for short) hobby, I’m sure you’ve probably heard of the rover “grid circling” debate.  This is basically a useless debate on the VHF Contesting mailing list that has probably dragged on for about two years now. The list moderators have had to shut it down at least twice now to get these folks to refocus on more relevant topics….an action many of us agreed with as it was just getting beyond silly at times.

With the recent explosion in consumer broadband data spectrum needs, there has been some reasonable concern over potential loss of more AR spectrum..especially the current AR microwave band allocations. Somehow the “grid circling” worry warts found this to be a way to beat a dead horse again.

Believe it or not, I stayed out of this silliness. Most days the VHF Contesting reflector messages only met with prompt application of the delete key. But after it became obvious that the debate was taking the mailing list far off target and little sign of it letting up, I finally added my 2 cents worth to it.

Brag alert, LOL. I’m not known for tact, diplomacy, or brevity although I’m getting better at the 2nd one as I age.  Judging by my inbox over the next few days, it was clear that many hams agreed with my posting. These folks would turn out to include several pretty big names in the VHF+ contesting world. Folks I never dreamed to hear from. Of course, there were a few of the “grid circling” worry warts trying in vain to keep things stirred up (the delete key is so wonderful).

I’ve had several requests to post it more publicly. So here you go. I’ve cleaned it up just a bit, but the basics are unchanged. I’m an IT guy by trade, not a  professional author/writer..so cut me some slack, grin. Below is the posting I made January 3rd from a cold and snowy Connecticut:


Zack, for the most part I agree…..

I usually stay out of  this “rover” stuff, but it just seems to never go away. What has happened to the laid back and friendly world of VHF+ contesting that so many of us are starting to long for?

Don’t like the rules? Then petition for a rule change. Think someone cheated? Gather proof and turn them in to the contest sponsor/etc.

All this non-stop belly aching on here just turns off more and more “casual” contesters..like myself. Thus less stations for you to work and less activity on the bands. Put yourselves in the shoes of a little gun that is contemplating shelling out more $$$ for a microwave band transverter and he’s seeing all this endless fussing…..why should he/she even bother?

This Rover/Grid Circling debate had gotten beyond “old” with most of us.  If a guy wants to build up a big multi-band microwave rover station and go out making lots of contacts that are 2-way over RF, legal within the FCC rules, and comply with the contest rules…then let ’em have at it is my stance. Heck, I tip my hat to these microwave guys and their efforts. Good for them! I’ve got a funny feeling they are having a lot of fun doing what they do, how about yourself “worry warts”?

Distance based scoring? A lot to like, but in the minds of some of these folks would this even be fair?  Maybe we should factor in miles per watt, miles per watt ERP, miles per ERP watt + AHAAG? Maybe zip codes versus 6-digit grids for multipliers…and so on. See my point? IT NEVER ENDS! Someone is always going to have an advantage over you if you think along those terms. This isn’t Washington DC, we don’t need a 2000+ page rules document trying to level a playing field that will never be level to begin with.

Think you’re being outgunned? Then improve your station or learn to deal with it or find another facet of the hobby. Some folks need to learn that just like life, no contest will ever be completely fair for all. Lot more to ham radio than just contesting so lighten up or be prepared to be miserable.

Rather than worry and fuss so much, maybe some on here should consider just why they are in the VHF+ Contesting facet of this wonderful hobby to begin with?? Is it about making contacts, experimenting, working DX on bands many hams don’t even realize there is DX on, and generally just having a lot of fun in the process? Or is it all about chasing some piece of paper on the wall?

A piece of paper that in the overall scheme of things is about useless beyond bragging rights amongst a few fellow hams..if they even care? Winning a contest will not get you a pay raise or promotion at work. Winning a ham radio contest won’t impress the ladies either. Winning a contest will not cut your taxes or raise your pension amount. So why all this obsessing over such trivial stuff versus enjoying working stations, many of which are rarely on the air outside of the contests?

I can only conclude that some on here could find ways to take the fun out of sex ;-).

Maybe it would be a good time for some to review the Amateur’s code:


Moving on….

Don’t want to loose our spectrum? Then start using it and lead by example. Legit activity on our lesser used bands is a good thing PERIOD! Occasional contest activity will not save our threatened spectrum…PERIOD! There needs to be activity on a band more often than just a few days out of a year. The ARRL can only do so much, a lot of our fate rests in our own hands.

So on these lesser used and threatened bands consider putting up some busy data links, some 24×7 propagation beacons (hint, hint), run some ATV links, or use them for repeater links, and so on. FIND WAYS TO USE THEM and USE THEM A LOT!

Let us stop being reactionary to spectrum threats and become proactive.

Just my 2 cents worth.





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