The 2022 Virginia QSO Party took place in early March. Now that the dust has settled, I wanted to post a summary of my planning and activity in the contest. The short summary is that 2022 was a great year to participate in VAQP. Activity levels were high and the Band conditions were mostly favorable. The vast majority of Counties and Cities in VA were represented.
Planning and Preparation
In recent years I have operated Mobile and entered either the Mobile or Expedition categories. VAQP rules state that a complete “Mobile” station must be capable of motion. Mobiles are normally used to operate from multiple Counties. The Expedition class is intended for stations that will move and operate from multiple Counties, but they can be setup in a way that the station cannot move, allowing the use of things like fixed type antennas. All equipment and antennas must be moved to all operating locations. I have used this to allow me to raise a temporary dipole, which performs much better than most Mobile antennas. This year I was unable to undertake the necessary prep for a successful Mobile or Expedition entry, so I decided to operate from my Fixed home QTH in White Stone, VA
Equipment and Operating Modes
I have a basic Single-Operator-Two-Radio (SO2R) station setup using Icom IC-7600 and a Yaesu FTDX-3000 radios. My antennas included an 80 meter broadband dipole, a 10-40 meter vertical, a 160 meter inverted “L.” and a Loop-on-ground which is for receive only. I previously had a ZS6BKW for use on 10, 20, and 40 meters that was taken out in a storm. The week before VAQP I decided to raise another ZS6BKW for VAQP which, when paired with the vertical, would allow me to have one radio active on each of 2 Bands between 10 and 40 meters. This turned out to be a good move, and was probably the main reason for a personal best score in VAQP this year.
The final decision that had to be made was selection of Modes to use in the contest. I originally planned to operate CW-only, but as the contest approached, I was concerned that this would make the “slow times” really bad, and if CW activity was light this year could lead to a boring weekend and a low score. Operating CW-only would also result in missed multipliers for me and for stations I might work on other modes. In the end, I decided to enter as a Mixed Mode station using CW and Phone. I considered including Digital Modes, but in the past the number of Digital VAQP QSOs was fairly small. The VAQP Contest Sponsors had also released an advisory before the contest, stating that the popular WSJT-X software was NOT viable for VAQP contest QSOs because it does not provide a mechanism for exchanging the required QSO sequential serial numbers by both stations. Thus, I decided not to use Digital modes this year.
Working the 2022 VA QSO Party
My original plan was to favor CW, but my operating time was split between CW and Phone as needed, based upon the current activity levels. I tried to keep calling CQ (“Running”) with one Radio on the hottest Band, while using the other to find multipliers and other QSOs on a second Band. This worked very well and using the QSOparty.com spotting Site integrated with N1MM+ contest logging software made it easy to find stations to work with the second radio. This spotting Site, hosted by KX4O, has become very popular during VAQP and provided many Spots. Being Spotted by others when you are calling CQ, is a huge benefit. I had one Spot that helped me start a Run that ended with 110 Phone stations being worked in one hour.
The activity level this year was great and I thought there was in increase in the number of out-of-state and DX stations participating. The number of active Contesters involved seemed to be higher this year too. This may have been due to our recruitment of some Contest Club members, and also the fact that some Contesters opted to reduce participation in the Russian DX contest this year.
Frequency conflicts – I had two instances of frequency conflicts this year, one good and one not so good. In the first case, a station politely told me they had a regularly scheduled Net on the freq and asked if I would mind QSYing a bit. I told him that I would be glad to do so, if he would give me a serial number and State or VA County. He did and I moved away, hearing him make favorable comments about the interaction. Maybe this was his first-ever contest QSO….. In the second case I had been Running for awhile and a station jumped on the frequency just a few hundred Hz away from mine. He started talking to his pals, grumbling about the fact that I was not operating on an even 1 kHz boundary, as if that excused his jumping right on top of me. I grumbled back at him and moved, thinking this guy is a rude dude.
There were not many slow times, but the use of 2 Bands sure helps when QSOs become hard to find. One thing that surprised me was the number of stations that called for duplicate QSOs (DUPES). I am not sure if that was because they got my Call wrong in the first QSO, or if they were just not effectively screening for Dupes with their logging software.
Overall, it was an enjoyable contest weekend and all the equipment and antennas played well. In the end I had about 850 QSOs and 195k points to report. If you did not participate in VAQP this year, maybe you could join us next year. We would appreciate the QSOs and maybe you could have some fun. Hope to see you there.