Field Day 2020

June 27 - 28 , 2020


The annual amateur radio Field Day event, sponsored by the Amateur Radio Relay League, is the most popular operating event in North America. In this year of 2020, the idea of large gatherings of clubs in the field enjoying this operating event faced a new reality. Early in the year, the world was faced with a pandemic caused by the Chinese Coronavirus (COVID-19). This has had the effect of limiting person-to-person contact on any scale. Many amateur radio events such as Hamfests were canceled nationwide - including our Ides of March Hamfest. Even expeditions to lightly inhabited regions of the globe were canceled for fear of either contracting the virus or unintentionally passing this infection to the native population. Our monthly club meetings, normally held at the Obion County Public Library, were suspended and we had to resort to an online virtual meeting using the Zoom platform.

Thus, as the calendar rolled toward June, we didn't know what to expect and how we would adapt to the current conditions. As time went on, the ARRL put out a modified set of rules designed to allow operators to participate in the Field Day event from home and have these scores count as participating members of a club. Normally, these home stations on AC mains power were not allowed to contact the same kind of stations for Field Day points. This rule was waived this year. Home stations on AC mains power are listed as 1D class.

A head count of available operators for this famously popular club event gave us a substantially depressed number - less than half the usual number of operators. Jamie WB4YDL, the RARC President and Field Day chairman, decided to reduce the classification from 3A (three HF stations operating simultaneously) to 2A. The Get-On-The-Air (GOTA) station normally is headed up by Stephen KK4NNH. This station is normally a real point-getter but, due to Stephen's work schedule and the reality that there would be few operators on that station, the decision was made to cancel the GOTA station this year.

Even Noel KJ4UNX's camper pulled up lame and was unusable for the event. This normally serves as the VHF station's location and the chairman's sleep quarters ! So this year, Field Day was all about adapting to circumstances and doing what we could on the radios we had ... and have a good time ! We had four club members that elected to go the 1D home station route - Bob K9IL, Randle KN4OPZ, Phil N4PWG, and Stephen KK4NNH as his work allowed. Those individual scores would be added to the club score to give a total aggregate club score.


Setup of the radios began the Thursday evening prior to the Field Day weekend and was easily accomplished. The members that were present had several year's experience setting up more complex Field Day radio arrays, so it was very nice not to have a lot of stress. All stations were positioned inside "the Shop" - a very nice facility with air conditioning at Glenn N4MJ's QTH that has served us very well for many years. Glenn even provided pizza for the radio setup which was delicious !

The High Band radio consisted of Micheal AK4VU's very nice Kenwood TS-480HX transceiver and the Low Band radio consisted of Jamie WB4YDL's Elecraft K3S with P3 panadapter. Each radio had a digital interface and a Winkeyer for CW operations. Each laptop was programmed with the updated N3FJP Field Day Logger as well as digital operations software - FlDigi and WSJT-X. Each laptop was networked so as to eliminate the possibility of duplicate contacts (dupes).

The VHF station is a "free" station (that doesn't elevate our classification) and is therefore not networked. This station is responsible for a LOT of points gathering with Winlink radio email traffic and messages to the section manager and section emergency coordinator. Also, 6M is usually a fun band when it's open. This station also holds the possibility of obtaining a hard 100 points with a satellite QSO.

Much of the pre-setup footwork was already done from last year's Field Day event with the creation of operation instruction manuals for each radio. This made it easier to recall information forgotten from last year so as to shorten the time to re-acclimate to the radio. The software and Winkeyers were also modified to adjust the exchange from 3A to 2A.

The following afternoon, we met to raise the antennas we would use. For HF, this consisted of an inverted-L antenna for the low-band station and an offset-center dipole (OCD) for the high-band station. We also had a longer version of the OCD that would normally be our "Wildcard" antenna. These antennas are very simple antennas and took little time to deploy, particularly in the nice sunny weather. Sure, it was hot, but not miserably so. And we didn't get the huge wind storms as in last year's event ! Of interest was the addition of omni-directional antennas to be used on 2M and 70 cm. The 2M antenna was constructed by Jamie WB4YDL and is called a Lindenblad antenna. This consists of four tilted dipoles fed in phase to give omni-directional circular polarization. The 70 cm was the "eggbeater" antenna which resembles this kitchen utensil. The hope was to snag a satellite QSO using simple non-moving (non-directional) antennas. The only other antenna was a previously deployed 6M yagi antenna. And that's it ! Sweet and simple !

The Operation:

The Saturday morning of Field Day saw again sunny skies but with increasing humidity that made things a bit sticky but not overwhelming. As is traditional, Reelfoot Amateur Radio Club offers a VE test session to those interested in taking a licensing exam. With the current circumstances, we weren't sure anyone would be coming to take a test. But we had one successful upgrade to General Class for this session. Congratulations !!

Successful Candidates Testing at the VE Session :

  • Nathan Sampson KEØBLU : passed General Class

After the VE test session was successfully completed, it was time to get down to some point-making business. Phil N4PWG gave a great talk for our educational bonus on the Tennessee section ARES Task Book. Phil has recently completed the task book in its entirety - a feat very few have accomplished. Those that are interested in emergency communications and the volunteer aspects of amateur radio should talk to their local emergency coordinator and get established with ARES. The task book is an excellent guide to training and demonstrates your credentials if it becomes time to present them during an actual emergency deployment. Phil is also responsible for copying the W1AW Field Day bulletin and is our emergency management official - all good for a total of 300 bonus points !!

At the appointed time of 1PM, Field Day operations commenced. At that time, all radios switched to generator power and we were off to the races. We had a total of six operators on hand to operate the stations ! Michael AK4VU started out on 10 meters - yes, 10 meters ! - for FT8 digital operations. And the band was loaded with signals !! So much so that it carried to 6 meters where Harold KJ4FTM was having success as well on FT8. Jamie WB4YDL was on the low-band station and started out on a more traditional digital mode, RTTY, his preferred contest mode. No dice !! On 40 meters, it was very definitely a FT8 watering hole.

For the grand majority of call signs answering our calls, most were 1D stations operating at home with their own station and antennas. The stations all performed very well and there was virtually no inter-station interference. Michael AK4VU was the only stalwart that elected to operate all night ! The only issue that came up was that the other computer was turned off and it was the server of the network ! Oops ! Michael continued to make contacts throughout the night but none of those made it to the main log. After the problem was detected, the remainder of the event QSO's were networked to the log correctly. Amazingly, there were no dupe contacts ! Jamie had a bit of a job to insert those missing logged QSO's after the event, but it got done.

Besides Jamie WB4YDL, Michael AK4VU, and Glenn N4MJ, we had Harold KJ4FTM, Michael Snow N4EBA, and Noel KJ4UNX as our on-site operators. We had a total of 17 visitors to our operations site from as far away as Dresden and Jackson, TN.

Solar powered QSO's were made on CW at 5 watts by Glenn N4MJ for another 100 point bonus. Satellite contacts were attempted but the available passes were far and few between and low in elevation - this was unsuccessful. Many Winlink messages were passed and we easily met the 100 points bonus for this as well as passing the SM/SEC message.

Much food was provided by our XYL's particularly Linda, Glenn N4MJ's XYL and June, Jamie WB4YDL's XYL. Noel cooked out some awesome hamburgers that really hit the spot ! We had plenty of munchies and dessert items and Ms. Linda made a great breakfast casserole for the morning.

Everyone made a last dash to the finish line to get as many QSO's in the log as possible. And then, at 1PM Sunday, it was done ! Another Field Day in the books.

The Results:

So how did this cobbled together Field Day operation do with this motley crew ? The following are the bottom line results :

Score Summary:

  CW Digital
Total QSO's


Band / Mode QSO Breakdown:

  CW Digital Phone Total

The bonus point total this year was 1250 points which wasn't that bad considering the restrictions. There wasn't a GOTA station to help with this tally and that cost about 500 points compared to last year. No satellite contact was able to be achieved.

The total QSO score after the power multiplier (x2) came out to 2384 points. Most QSO's made were 2 point digital QSO's. There is no question that the fascination of FT8 has been established and remains strong. Only Glenn N4MJ made CW QSO's which are also 2 points each. What was really interesting were the open band conditions on the higher bands including 6M. A total of 71 QSO's were made on 6M - a new club record ! - and this outpaced 10M, which was also open ! 15M also did very well but 80M was the place to be during the night. The total submitted score was 3634 points for Reelfoot Amateur Radio Club in the class 2A category. This was of course quite a low score. But now for the rest of the story !

Our 1D stations concentrated on their favorite mode. Bob K9IL is a CW only operator and made a very impressive 785 QSO's for a total claimed score of 3190 points. Phil N4PWG prefers digital communications and made 55 digital QSO's and also claimed some bonus points - all added to a claimed score of 470 points. Stephen KK4NNH managed to squeeze in 19 digital QSO's for a claimed score of 126 points. Randle KN4OPZ's preferred mode is phone and he managed to make 153 QSO's for an excellent effort. This was also Randle's first experience with computer logging. His total combined score was 356 points. So if the rules this year are read correctly, the total conglomerate score for Reelfoot Amateur Radio club in class 2A is the addition of these 1D scores to the total submitted score - and this comes to 7776 points ! This is a huge score and has never been achieved by this club ! Of course, we have no idea if this is a good score or not since we have no frame of reference !!


This was actually an enjoyable and relatively stress-free Field Day event for this year. The complexity of the overall effort was an order of magnitude less than in previous years without the GOTA and that 3rd HF station and the use of more involved antenna systems and noise reduction devices. It boiled down to just a "boy and his radio" - just making contacts any way you wanted and enjoying everybody's company and the great food.

Photography for this event was provided by Michael AK4VU and Jamie WB4YDL .

The Shop at the QTH of Glenn N4MJ was once again the perfect Field Day location and the club members owe many thanks to Glenn and XYL Linda for a wonderful experience. Thanks also go to our XYL's who kept us fed and hydrated. The full Field Day results are published in the December issue of QST.


Glenn N4MJ :

2020 Field Day

Certainly Field Day 2020 was shrouded by Covid-19.  There were limited participants at the FD site but that wasn’t so bad as it gave everyone breathing room.  Some members worked 1D from home, which was much appreciated and cumulative to the club score.  I believe I counted 17 total attendees, including visitors.
A few changes were made to accommodate the few operators –
1) antenna set up was with simple wire antennas.
2) there was no GOTA station this year.
3) CW & phone ops were very limited.
4) FT-8 was the mode of choice.
5) Sat comm was nil
6) a new 3kw generator was employed
7) VE testing
Set up of antennas was easy and much quicker than past years. The heat and humidity didn’t let up but simple antennas required less people and time to set-up, and that was much appreciated by all.
The three H.F. antennas – inverted L, the wild card 80 -10 OCF dipole, and a homebrew 40 – 10 OCF dipole worked amazingly well.  The tri-plexer was not needed this year so any switching of antennas was done manually.
Networking kept the logs visible to each operator.  We’ve used this for two years now and it is really nice to be able to see who is working whom.  Also, it makes life simpler for the FD chairman when it comes to filing the log with ARRL.
No GOTA station meant less equipment, less antennas and less people. Our score could have used that extra kick but this was a ‘different FD year’.
CW contacts was limited, phone was even more limited.  FT-8 and some FT-4 were the main carriers for this FD.  I haven’t seen a final score and even if I saw it I would still be in the dark about how we did compared to the completion. 
Jamie brought a newly constructed Lindenblad antenna for Sat comm.  Unfortunately, the orbits didn’t work out.  One satellite came directly over but was inactive so no points there.
The new 3kw generator did a fine job and used less fuel.
VE testing resulted in the upgrade to General Class for Nathan Sampson, KE0BLU.  Congrats Nathan.
From visitors info I understand there were only three clubs in West Tennessee.
As usual the food was outstanding thanks to Noel for grilling and to the XYLs & Harold, KJ4FTM, for supplying our favorites.
Personally, I really enjoyed FD this year – less labor, not too busy, and I learned a good bit about FT-8 and FT-4. 
The December issue of QST will undoubtedly be scanned quickly for participants, classes, scores and standings nationally and statewide.
73 de n4mj//grs

See you on Field Day 2021 !

When all else fails ... Amateur Radio.