I'm enjoying using VARAC v5.1.8 very much, including full QSO, but also the beacon/vmail feature. I'm involved with the local ARES and EMCOMM here in Washington state and I just heard a presentation on how little the Winlink P2P feature is used. A catastrophic event may take out much of the communication infrastructure and leave the Emcomm ham with limited options. Connection to an out of impacted area Winlink RMS can be hit or miss, depending on propagation and even then, a message may sit for several hours, depending on the RMS station's connectivity. A Winlink Peer to Peer (P2P) connection would be of great advantage in getting a message through, but the mode and frequency would need to be decided ahead of time. That's not going to be possible in most cases.
This is where VARAC shines. If there is a catastrophic event and I'm out of the impacted area, I could start sending a beacon with an "I'm away" message saying "I'm an EMCOMM Winlink capable station, leave a short vmail message and email address for forwarding". The station in need would be able to see beacons with good SNR, connect and leave a vmail with their emergency traffic. My home QTH station has a dedicated vhf winlink station with several local VARA FM Radio Message Servers I can connect to, plus Winlink Telnet, both capable of message forwarding. I'd like to set up a proof of concept in the near future using the current VARAC beacon frequency and have VARAC stations send me an email request via vmail that I would forward. I could send the message and then send an Ack back to the station via VARAC vmail. They would check their internet email and verify it went through and how long it took.
In the future, maybe would could allocate one of the other slots, say slot 15, as an Emcomm beacon slot, only used for emergency situations. Also, establish a couple new Emcomm, 2300 BW slots up the band when higher throughput is needed for emergency traffic.
If there are enough folks who think this is an idea worth exploring and the concepts works well, perhaps we could add some of these features to VARAC for EMCOMM. I really think it would greatly augment the Winlink P2P mode. What say you?