Sturdily-built Craig Monk had a fine junior and youth career in sailing, winning the P class Tanner Cup and then the Starling nationals.
The Taranaki-born Monk then established himself as New Zealand’s pre-eminent Finn class sailor – he won the national title every year from 1989-96.
Monk sailed extremely well to win the bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where there were 28 Finn class entrants. He recorded finishing placings of 23-11-1-7-17-6-1. Going into the last day, Monk likely to be edged out of the medals, but his victory in that race – his second of the regatta – gave him a total of 64.7 points and enabled him to pip Great Britain’s Stuart Childerley and Swede Fredrik Loof for the bronze.
In 1996 Monk had to fight extremely hard to earn Olympic selection. At New Zealand’s Olympic trials that year, Monk and Dean Barker, later to win more fame as an America’s Cup skipper, had a real battle that went down to the last race. Monk got the nod, but didn’t have a particularly happy time of it at the Olympics, where he finished 13th in the field of 31.
Besides his outstanding record in Finn class sailing (he was ranked No 1 in the world in 1993), Monk has been in demand by America’s Cup syndicates. Russell Coutts recruited him as a grinder for the successful 1995 Team New Zealand campaign, and Monk was with Team New Zealand again for the successful defence in 2000.
He moved to One World for the 2003 Cup and then became a grinder for Oracle. Monk is so good tactically and technically that he could easily have looked to skipper or be tactician for one of the America’s Cup syndicates, but with his strength and stamina, he was also a sought-after grinder. From 2003-07 he was the Oracle Racing sailing team manager.
Monk kept his hand in in other forms of sailing and teamed with Gavin Brady in some Star class regattas, winning as silver medal in the 2009 world championships. However, his America’s Cup commitments claimed much of his time.
In 2013 he was a grinder on the Swedish challenger Artemis. There was a tragedy when Artemis capsized during training in the waters off San Francisco British Olympian Andrew Simpson died. Monk injured his hand in the incident.
Besides sailing, Monk kept himself involved in yachting in many other ways.
From 1986-90 he taught sailing at a private American Yacht Club (beginner through to advanced) in New York. For four years from 1989 he ran his own professional sailing company working with yacht clubs in the Auckland region. This involved on water junior sailing programmes and specialist one on one coaching with dinghy sailors
And from 1996-2001 Monk worked for the Hillary Commission providing sports leadership training in secondary schools throughout New Zealand. He was one of the first two professional sports people in New Zealand to be funded by the Hillary Commission to provide sports leadership training to youth. Entitled Dare to Dream, this programme involved sessions on having a dream, motivational goal setting, the importance of role models, staying focused and commitment for a long haul.