Eddie launches a thousand ships

'Just make sure you put me in the middle of the frame so they can't crop me." That's what the Collingwood Football Club president, radio host and TV presenter Eddie McGuire yelled, standing in the middle of a fishing boat, as camera shutters snapped on Thursday.

'Just make sure you put me in the middle of the frame so they can't crop me." That's what the Collingwood Football Club president, radio host and TV presenter Eddie McGuire yelled, standing in the middle of a fishing boat, as camera shutters snapped on Thursday.

Well, there's a reason why they call him Eddie Everywhere.

McGuire was among more than 500 corporate heavyweights and spouses taking to the water off Victoria's summertime playground of the rich, Sorrento, for the annual Couta Boat Classic put on by global accounting firm KPMG.

McGuire and wife Carla were aboard the Rhapsody, one of the 50-odd boats carving through the waters of Port Phillip Bay.

At stake was little but pride, glory and bragging rights, as the race boasts no trophy.

Also aboard with the McGuires: the former treasurer Peter Costello and wife Tanya, and the nation's highest-paid public servant, Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour, with wife Dionnie.

The wind dropped away in the second half of the race, leaving sails sagging and Rhapsody all but becalmed.

Pipped at the post

There was better luck for the ASX boss Elmer Funke Kupper, aboard Romy with his wife Joanne. Romy's crew - including the former Toll chief financial officer Neil Chatfield, who now sits on the Transurban board, and the chairman of Westpac, Lindsay Maxsted - led the race in its early stages.

But by the end of the race Romy had been pipped by last year's winner, Wagtail, which boasts at the tiller the steady hand of serious sailor Nick Williams.

Williams, the son of Crown mastermind Lloyd Williams, was one of several high-profile business types who signed up to back the sport following the 2004 Athens Olympics, when Australia failed to win a single medal.

His couta boat claimed line honours, crossing the line comfortably ahead of Rhapsody.

Media mate

Costello's son Seb is a reporter at the Nine Network, joining the embattled TV broadcaster in late November, and the former treasurer is himself reportedly in line to join the revitalised board now that the company has survived its near-debt experience.

But it seems the wily former politician maintains a healthy attitude towards the press (even if his columns for Fairfax Media have made him an occasional member of the fourth estate).

"Feeding the chooks, I see," he said to Leigh Clifford as the Qantas chairman fended off a pair of hacks.

Voice for Joyce

Clifford took the opportunity to defend his chief executive, Alan Joyce, from the slavering pack of activist investors keen to unseat him, headed by merchant banker Mark Carnegie with support from door-to-door salesman and Gina Rinehart new bestie John Singleton.

"We have got in my opinion a first-class CEO who has said what he was going to do and consistently over the past year delivered on it," he said. "We've got a situation with the Emirates deal which is backed by our employees, by the customers, and by both sides of politics.

"There's been a few people and a couple of consortia opposed to that strategy and I entirely disagree [with them] and we'll be getting on with it."

Firm leadership

Before the race, clad in the fetching pink top KPMG handed out to all its guests, Funke Kupper was musing on the prospects of an election in faraway Italy.

Undeterred by prosecutions and occasional assaults, living hairpiece and bunga bunga enthusiast Silvio Berlusconi is once again considering running for office. "That's bizarre, what can I say," Funke Kupper said. While he admitted its drawbacks, Funke Kupper seems more of a fan of China's decidedly non-democratic once-a-decade leadership handovers. "It provides wonderful consistency," he said.

Taking the wheel

Unsurprisingly, McGuire ended up on the microphone touting a sponsorship deal between his beloved Pies and Victorian car club and insurer RACV. "The deal is, they give us money and I tell the membership to stop knocking off the cars," he said.

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