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Alan Bond has been desperately trying to get out of jail in time for the upcoming America’s Cup challenge in Auckland, but we’re backing the Italians who have the Prada man’s millions behind them
It is not Antigua. It’s neither the South of France nor the bucket of Nantucket. It’s the Hauraki Gulf off Auckland and you better believe it is America’s Cup XXX – a 150-year-old sheltered workshop for high seas robber barons which started on Saturday in an ocean near you.

Crikey’s yachting correspondents in East Bondi (yachts-for-all-the-workers was a key clause in the new Crikey enterprise bargaining agreement) are awash with bonhomie (and Mount Gay Rum) for this great event and send special cheerios to the oldest sporting trophy’s greatest ever hero who is stuck in Karnet Prison Farm on the outskirts of Perth and may, sadly, miss this year’s event entirely.

Bondy has asked the High Court for a special Get-Out-Of-Jail card claiming, among other things, the Constitution is un-constitutional, just so he can get to the races in New Zealand. The High Court has reserved its decision on his appalling appeal but the show will go on without him, as it has with Her Majesty’s Pleasure since she was first told “there is no second” in 1851.

The Kiwis are the Cup holders and if they win it again, Australia can claim it as its own (like we will with Russell Crowe if he wins an Oscar). Always remember the key clause in the Closer Economic Relations agreement we have with the trans-Tasman Sheeplovers is this: “Phar Lap is an Australian horse if he is winning and a New Zealand horse if he is losing.”

More than 65 percent of Kiwis don’t believe the Kiwis can win and who are we to disagree with them. The other 35 per cent of the population have already emigrated to Australia. The head shepherd is Sir Peter Blake, a salt of some note who – only in NZ -goes by the preposterous title of Knight Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. He got it for winning in 1995. At least we sent Bondy to jail (but not until he’d passed Go and collected $2.5 billion!).

Blake is feeding his crew a combination of high-altitude oxygen and deer velvet (we kid you not) to give them the ticker to take on the challenger. The Kiwis are the first defenders in the Cup’s 150-year history not game enough to take themselves on in a defender series. “NZ is not bigger enough to have two syndicates,” said Blake. The rest of the world are convinced they were afraid of losing to themselves and hence forfeiting the Cup.

Besides becoming a popular skylarking-suicide venue, the Cup Village would have done Mr Macawber proud with an “income shortfall” of $9 million declared this week despite getting three million people through the door. The defenders call their boat “Black Magic” which is entirely appropriate for Oceania’s black sheep. They will wear “lucky” red socks made in Korea.

As should be perfectly clear by now, the Crikey yachting correspondents are rooting for the Italian challenger who’s boat goes by the romantic name of “Luna Rossa”. We are printing T-shirts with “Australians for the Italians” slogan in big letters – which is going down really well on the Auckland docks. In fact, so well that Australians are bobbing-up all over Auckland Harbour.

Our brave decision to back the Italians is based on the three great mysteries of life as we know it:

1.. The Italians will return to the good old days of Julius Caesar and starting kicking Kiwi arse and put those tired old jokes about Mussolini’s tanks having five-reverse-gears-and-one-forward-gear behind them. ie they have the faster boat.

2.. We are barracking for whoever is playing against NZ. The Kiwis can’t have much going for them if they can’t beat the Wallabies or our netball team et al. ie they have the slower boat.

3.. There are more Italians in Leichardt and Carlton than Kiwis and – conversely – less Italians than Kiwis in Australia. The ZG staff have also voted to have their next yachting sabbatical on the Mediterranean.

We also like the cut of the Itai’s gibe. Their chief gondolier is Signor Patrizio Bertelli, a low-down Neapolitan counterfeiter in the old swashbuckling-America’s Cup tradition and not a upstart country bumpkin like the blowhard Kiwi, Sir Toby Blake.

Like the Jolly Swagman, Patrizio is the Jolly Bagman. He got knicked by the troopers when his factory was caught making fairly reasonable copies of Miuccia Prada’s fashionable handbags. When she took both offence and legal action against him 12-years-ago, he upped the ante and jumped into the billabong and married her.

Together, they have turned Miuccia’s Prada’s third-generation artisan business into one of the world’s must-have fashion labels and the Prada global conglomerate with a turnover of US$650 million. Prada’s Jolly Bagman is said to have spent US$100 million on this year America’s Cup. Whether it is true or not, if that is what his friends and enemies think, it will be money well spent.

The Prada boss arrived at his syndicate base tired and angry early on the last day of the challenger series. He had been kept awake until 3 am by music blaring from the base of his opponents, AmericaOne, and he wanted revenge. When he reached the Prada base at 7 am, Bertelli, who lives in his wooden yacht Ulisse berthed directly across from the rival compound, directed all Prada’s stereo speakers towards the AmericaOne base right next door. And then he began playing the syndicate’s theme, an old Neapolitan song called Luna Rossa, on repeat, perhaps hundreds of times before his boat left the dock.

Crikey’s yachting correspondents love the song and hope to hear a lot more of it before the end of America’s Cup XXX in East Bondi.

Peter Fray

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