A new and exciting operating event will kick off on January 1, 2018, at 0000 UTC (New Year’s Eve in US time zones), when the ARRL International Grid Chase gets under way. The year-long event hopes to build on the success of the highly successful 2016 National Parks on the Air (NPOTA). The objective is to work stations on any band (except 60 meters) in as many different Maidenhead grid squares as possible, and then upload your log data to ARRL’s Logbook of The World (LoTW). Registration is free, and it costs nothing to use LoTW. Many hams are familiar with grid squares from the VHF/UHF and satellite realms, and everyone lives in one. ARRL’s VUCC is based on grid squares, and some contests on HF, as well as on VHF and UHF, also use them as a scoring factor.
John Morris, G4ANB, came up with the locator system, which the VHF Working Group adopted in 1980 at a meeting in Maidenhead, England — thus the term “Maidenhead grid square.” The system divvies up the entire globe into 324 fields, each containing 100 grid squares 1° latitude by 2° longitude in size. With 32,400 potential grid squares, it’s not likely that anyone will run out of challenges, even though some grid squares are surrounded entirely by water, are in areas that are uninhabited, or are difficult to access.
If you don’t know your grid square, David Levine, K2DSL, has an online calculator. Just enter a postal address, ZIP code or a call sign, and his site will tell you the grid square for that location. For example, enter “W1AW” and the site will return “FN31pr.” For the purposes of the ARRL International Grid Chase, though, just the two initial letters and the two numbers that follow (e.g., FN31) are all you need to know.
Once you get active in the chase and start uploading your log data, each new grid square contact confirmed through LoTW will count toward your monthly total. Getting started is simple: Turn on the radio and call CQ or “CQ Grid Chase,” or listen for others doing the same. Make the contact, exchange grid squares, log it, and move on to another. At the end of each month, your totals on the Grid Chase Leader Board will reset to zero, although the system retains all monthly data to determine top finishers in various categories at the end of the year.
Any contact you make in 2018 can count for your Chase score; it doesn’t have to involve an exchange of grid squares. As long as the other operators participate in LoTW, you’ll get credit automatically when they upload their logs. This means that contest contacts will also count, as will contacts with special event stations, or other on-air activity that uses LoTW to confirm contacts.
Some radio amateurs live in sparsely populated grid squares, and if you’re one of those, you could find yourself handling a pileup! Expeditions to hard-to-reach or rare grid squares will undoubtedly evolve. You also can travel to one of those grid squares yourself. Some vehicle or hand-held GPS units can be set to display when you are in a particular grid square. Apps are available for smartphones or tablets, such as Ham Square for iOS devices or HamGPS for Android devices.
There are no restrictions on modes or bands, as long as they are legal. Satellite contacts are valid for the Chase. The event is open to all radio amateurs.
As all contacts are uploaded to LoTW, participants may use their contacts toward other ARRL awards, in addition to the overall monthly and annual Grid Chase recognitions. These other ARRL awards include the grid-based VHF-UHF Century Club (VUCC) and Fred Fish Memorial Award, as well as Worked All States (WAS), WAS Triple Play, DX Century Club (DXCC), and Worked All Continents (WAC).
Complete details of the ARRL International Grid Chase will appear in the December 2017 issue of QST. The digital edition is available on Friday, November 10.