This term and/or one of it's pseudonyms (penhunter, hunter, pen-hunter, PH, hunting, etc.) is widely misunderstood and misused in public races. One reason for this is that it has become popular for hosts to advertise house rules. Sometimes a host might stipulate a house rule to the effect that non-aggressive sailing, "easy going" sailing, relaxed rules, or maybe gentlemanly courtesy is expected for a specific race or series of races. So long as everyone racing understands the intention of that house rule all should be fine but the frequent occurrence is that some skipper will assert the Racing Rules of Sailing whenever they come into play. Sometimes this reflects a trained habit and then sometimes it is done for vengeance or out of spite for another skipper.
What makes a pen hunter? Edit
When a boat maneuvers to assert her right of way and in doing so negatively impacts her own place in the race (or the series of races that comprise a regatta) then she will usually be regarded as penalty hunting.
- This aggressive style of sailing is most definitely part of the game in a match race where a penalty need not be cleared if there remains a chance that the penalty can be canceled by causing your opponent to commit a penalty.
- Even in a team race it is widely considered fair play for you to maneuver your boat to improve your team's chance of winning the race based on total points computed at the finish line. The generic maneuver is for a red team boat in the lead to use her right-of-way to carry a blue team boat well off course so as to allow fellow red team boats to advance their fleet position ahead of the intervening blue boat.
So more often than not it is when the aggressive tactics of match and/or team racing are inappropriately applied within a fleet race context that the accusations of pen-hunting start to appear in the chat window.
What to expect Edit
First of all remember that this is just a game and nobody has bet the title to the family home or their precious automobile on the outcome of a race or regatta.
If you are wrongly accused of being a pen hunter you can expect to be kicked (or banned) from the server without so much as a chance to defend your actions. If that's the case then it's best to simply shrug it off and move on to find a host who shares your understanding of the rules.
If you aren't sure if you were in the right or the wrong then be quick to apologize and consider offering to take a penalty turn to appease the host. Always remain civil in the chat window. Always refrain from seeking vengeance on the skipper that accused you.
If you know you are in the wrong then how you react to an accusation is going to depend on your reasons for hunting in the first place. Sadly, many skippers seek revenge on a boat (or boats) they feel "ruined" their race in some way only to quit the race after they have exacted vengeance on their prey. If this sounds like you then carefully consider how important a healthy reputation is to your enjoyment of online racing.
If you are tempted to accuse another skipper of pen hunting then think twice. A reputation for being a "whiner" can be as damaging as a reputation for being a pen-hunting skipper. Sometimes it is better to spin and fin' than to fit and quit or to cast an accusation.
If you've already cast the accusation then resist the urge to lobby the host for the skipper to be punished.
If you witnessed an event and can objectively judge whether the penalty was deserved or unwarranted then speak up but don't lobby.