Fauquier County, VA – Your County’s “hams” will participate this weekend in an amateur radio event called the Virginia QSO Party (VAQP).
A QSO being the ham code for a single contact between two amateur radio operators, the ‘Virginia QSO Party’ pits individual operators and radio clubs against each other in an attempt to make as many contacts as possible during the weekend event each March. The points are further multiplied by the number of Virginia Counties and Independent Cities contacted providing a bonus for those who make an effort to reach as many locations within Virginia as possible using the radio waves.
Amateur Radio Operators have much radio spectrum available to use from Shortwave HF to frequencies adjacent to the FM broadcast band and beyond. While certainly a competition, the Virginia QSO Party is also an exercise on how to make the most of this radio spectrum to establish reliable communications within Virginia be they between the counties of Fauquier and Prince William or Fauquier and Lee using the sky as a radio wave mirror.
This radio wave mirror in the sky is called the ionosphere and is constantly changing by the hour, the season and the eleven year solar cycle. We are in or near the eleven year solar maximum. In fact a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth’s magnetic field at approximately 1 am this morning. This may challenge shortwave communications as the ionosphere reacts to the Sun’s fury. Participating in a contest like this is a bit like playing a field sport where the field’s dimensions change minute by minute.
The organizers of the Virginia QSO Party give awards to acknowledge excellence. Two of these are club awards given to the best scores tallied by members of amateur radio organizations. The Fauquier Amateur Radio Association (FARA) has won one of the club awards since 2006. FARA won the second award in 2011 and 2012. We hope to repeat the twofer win again this year.
The members of the Fauquier Amateur Radio Association work very hard to field the members in a winning combination of base station, portable and mobile radio operations in Fauquier County. Additionally, the mobile and portable operators make radio contacts from dozens of the 134 counties and cities within Virginia on routes that take some all the way to southwest Virginia.
The win of both club awards the last two years supports the notion FARA members have honed the skills to establish communications between any two points in Virginia without need of terrestrial infrastructure.
If you see amateur radio operators this weekend putting up additional antennas in their backyards or see vehicles bristling with antennas of every size roaming the state, know the Virginia QSO Party is again testing the ability of hams to make contact with each other state wide. Root for your home team hams… root for FARA.
VAQP Rare County Watch
Many members will activate rare counties this weekend including N4YXW/M, N3KTU/M, K4G/M, AB4YK/M, W8KRZ/M and N4RP/M.
AB4YK in particular will have a route through very rare counties in southwest Virginia including on Saturday WAS, BRX, SCO, LEE, WIS, NRX, WIS, DIC, BCH. RUS, TAZ, BLA and WYT. Sunday he will visit WYT, SMY, WYT, GRA, CRL, GAX, FLO, PAT, PUL and MON. He has HF on 80 and up with high power so look to get a rare one from him.
VAQP Spotting Network
A VAQP spotting network is available for any VAQP participants. It has a traditional telnet portal along with a handy web interface.