Star power for Olympics

Hamish Pepper and former crew, Carl Williams (NZL and BMW Oracle Racing) after finishing the Medal race in the Star class at the 2008 Olympics, Qingdao

Greg Ford reports in the Sunday Star Times:

In a rare piece of good news for sailing in this country, America's Cup hero and Olympic medallist Craig Monk has decided to make a surprise comeback to dinghy sailing in a bid to qualify for the London Games in 2012.

Monk, who won a bronze sailing a Finn in Barcelona (1992) in what he says feels like an age ago, will team up with another of New Zealand's more accomplished sailors Hamish Pepper in a two-handed Star.

The move has caught the sailing community on the hop.

Both men were, and still are, heavily involved in two of the last remaining active America's Cup syndicates. Pepper is a member of Russell Coutts' BMW Oracle afterguard while Monk, who sailed for Oracle at the last cup, is now aligned with the Ben Ainslie-led British challenge, Team Origin.

Both men will sail in the various fill-in regattas with their respective syndicates as billionaires Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli fight it out for the Auld Mug in monolithic multihulls some time next year, if they can settle their latest legal squabble.

Instead of dwelling on the injustice of it all, as many around the sailing world are doing, Monk and Pepper decided to do what they do best and 'get back to grassroots' sailing.

'I have sat on the couch watching the last three Olympics all the while wishing I was there,' said Monk. 'That never leaves you, I think. Once you have competed in the Olympics, it gets in your blood and never leaves you.

'So when Hamish gave me a call and asked if I wanted to launch a campaign, I didn't hesitate to say yes.

'I had actually given it some thought already.'

Pepper has been similarly affected by the America's Cup delay. However, his motivation for attending the Olympics is slightly different.

His previous three Games campaigns have all ended unsatisfactorily. So, against his partner's better judgement, he's giving it one last shot.

'She wants to kill me, in fact,' he joked.

'But as Craig said, it gets in your blood. I need to try and win that gold that's so far eluded me.'

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Sail-World comments: Both Hamish Pepper and Craig Monk are team members of the US America's Cup Challenger, BMW Oracle Racing