The ARRL International Grid Chase
Get ready to kick off 2018 with a new year-long operating event!
Bart Jahnke, W9JJ
ARRL Contest Branch Manager
You may not know this, but your station is in a Maidenhead grid square. The entire world is divided into thousands of these 1° latitude × 2° longitude squares, each one with a unique designation. They’re all part of a geographic location system adopted in the 1980s at a meeting of the VHF Working Group in Maidenhead, England.
Unless you are a VHF enthusiast, this nugget of information may not mean much. But at 0000 UTC on January 1, 2018, the global Amateur Radio community will be very interested in grid squares.
Get in the Chase
The objective of the ARRL International Grid Chase is simple: Work stations in as many grid squares as possible and upload your log data to ARRL’s Logbook of The World. If you are not currently registered with Logbook of The World, this is a good reason to get started. Go to https://lotw.arrl.org/lotw-help/getting-started/. Registration and uploading are free.
Every new grid square contact confirmed through Logbook of The World counts toward your monthly total, so you have an incentive to start the chase as soon as you ring in the New Year.
Just turn on your radio and start calling “CQ Grid Chase,” or listen for others doing the same. Make the contact, enter it into your log, and you’re on to the next (see the sidebar, “Tips for the Chase“).
At the end of each month, your totals on the Grid Chase leader board will reset to zero. Fear not, though. The online scoring system will maintain your monthly totals for a grand total at the end of the year, when an annual summary will be released and awards given to top finishers in various categories.
The ARRL International Grid Chase is open to all amateurs, regardless of location or license class. Any operating mode is eligible as well as every band, except 60 meters. You’ll find the complete rules at www.arrl.org/aigc2018.
But What’s My Grid Square?
Determining your grid square is easy. David Levine, K2DSL, has a great online calculator at www.levinecentral.com/ham/grid_square.php. Just enter a postal address, zip code, or even a call sign, and David’s site will tell you the grid square for that location.
For example, enter “W1AW” and the site will return “FN31pr.” The letters “pr” designate the grid square field, but you won’t need that for the Chase. Just FN31 will do.
The ARRL online store (www.arrl.org/shop) also offers grid square maps of the US and Canada, as well as a grid square atlas of the entire world.
Plenty of Pileups
Figure 1 — Grid square FN51 is mostly salt water, except for a narrow strip of land along the “sole” of Cape Cod and a portion of southeastern Nantucket Island. This image is taken from the ARRL Amateur Radio Map of North America, available at www.arrl.org/shop.
Some grid squares have thousands of amateurs in residence, but others have only a few, or none. Those “rare” grid squares will be hot properties in 2018, and hams operating from those locations can expect serious pileups.
Of course, nothing prevents you from hopping into your car and driving to a grid square where you are the only amateur on the air. There are some grid squares in coastal areas, for example, where most of the territory is comprised of water. Look at Figure 1 and notice that grid square FN51 is mostly in the Atlantic Ocean, except for a relatively narrow strip along the “sole” of Cape Cod and a small portion of southeastern Nantucket Island.
If you’re taking to the road, some vehicular GPS systems will display grid square locations. You can also use apps for your smartphone or tablet, such as Ham Square (iPhone, iPad) or HamGPS (Android).
However you play it, the ARRL International Grid Chase is going to be big. By the time you read this, “opening day” will be less than 2 months away. Better sign up with Logbook of The World (if you haven’t already) and prepare your gear!
Questions? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips for the Chase
- Any contact can count for your Chase score; it doesn’t have to involve an exchange of grid squares. As long as other operators participate with Logbook of The World, you’ll get the credit automatically when they upload their logs. This means that contest contacts will count, as will contacts with special-event stations, or any other on-air activity. As long as stations upload their logs to Logbook of The World, you’re good.
- The new FT8 digital operating mode is ideal for the ARRL International Grid Chase. You can set up FT8 to call CQ and automatically respond, completing a contact in a little over a minute while you watch. When the contact is complete, simply click your mouse to trigger another CQ. You’ll find FT8 within the free WSJT-X software suite at https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/wsjtx.html.
- Watch for Logbook of The World users on your favorite online DX clusters. Most clusters have the ability to filter and display only stations that participate in Logbook of The World; other clusters can at least flag the stations with a symbol. This will save time when you are looking for contacts to increase your score. If you enjoy JT65, JT9, or the FT8 digital modes, check out the free JTAlert for Windows at http://hamapps.com. This software works with JT65-HF or WSJT-X applications to automatically flag Logbook users and will even alert you when a station is on the air in a needed grid square.
- Upload often. Grid Chase totals are refreshed at the end of each month. With that in mind, it pays to send new data to Logbook of The World every couple of days, or even daily.
- Satellite contacts count. Contacts made through earthbound repeaters do notcount for the Grid Chase, but repeaters in outer space are the exception. There are low-orbiting satellites that support CW, SSB, and even FM contacts. See the AMSAT-NA website at www.amsat.org.
- Try “circling” grid squares. It’s easy to set up a portable or mobile operation at the intersections where corners of grid squares meet. For example, you could operate in one grid square and then drive west across the “border” into the next square. Make some contacts there and then drive north into the adjacent square. Bang out more contacts, and then head east into another grid square. This is a very common technique used by VHF “rover” operators. In a single day, you can operate from four different grid squares!
- Take the Chase on vacation. Take a radio along when you travel and work new grid squares at your destinations. Even a handheld FM transceiver can be used to work a new square on a simplex frequency.
© December 2017 ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio® www.arrl.org