Forget Oracle Team USA versus Team New Zealand - the real America's Cup final war is between the Kiwis and Australia.

Oracle's Aussie helmsman Jimmy Spithill is the modern-day Dennis Conner, although he's more endearing than the abrasive American who was the first Cup skipper to get up our noses.

But Spithill - who never misses an opportunity to playfully needle Kiwis - is just one of many Australians in the Oracle team - four of the six first-choice on-board sailing crew are Aussies.

Put it this way ... Men At Work's 'I Come From A Land Down Under' is far more likely to be blaring across Oracle's cat dockside than Bruce Springsteen's anthem 'Born in the USA'.


As The Guardian reported last month, Oracle Team USA is essentially Australia's unofficial entrant.

"To pretend nationality plays no factor belies the truth," The Guardian said in a preview of the regatta.

"For Australians like Spithill and [helmsman/tactician & sailing team manager Tom] Slingsby nothing beats defeating the New Zealanders.

"The Sydney duo did it aboard Oracle in San Francisco four years ago - winning eight straight races to defend their crown. In 2017 it would seem the Australian connections would love to inflict another defeat on one team more than any other.

"I hope we race Team New Zealand in the final again. A lot of people don't think we should have won the last one. They thought it was a fluke. I am an extremely competitive guy and I want to prove to everyone that we are the better team. So let's have a rematch," Slingsby said.

The New Zealand's Herald's resident sailing expert Professor Mark Orams points out there have been a large number of Australians on other boats in this Cup regatta.

Artemis helmsman Nathan Outteridge is one of the more obvious.

And of course Team New Zealand skipper Glenn Ashby, who performs the wing trimmer role during racing, is from across the ditch.

Orams says the large number of Kiwis and Australians across various syndicates illustrates the strength of both sailing nations on a global scale.

"Artemis, Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA are all skippered by Australians. They are great sailors and have a huge tradition in our sport," Orams said.

"I always love sailing with Aussies, they have the same hard working approach as us Kiwis. I also have to say that Glenn Ashby is the nicest guy you will ever meet. Same goes for Nathan Outteridge.

"I have never met Jimmy Spithill in person, but I have heard he is a great guy - we need to understand that what we see via TV interviews and in the heat of a competitive battle is not the full picture of what somebody is really like."

Orams added that regatta director Iain Murray - "a great sailor in his own right" -- and chief umpire Richard Slater are also Aussies "and are doing a great job from where I sit".

There is some irony in Spithill's cheeky jousting and needling of the Kiwis. The little Aussie fighter has property in Herne Bay, in Auckland.

As for who will prevail in the Cup final between the Aussie-dominated crew of Oracle and Team NZ?

We thought we'd give the final word to the tough Englishman Iain Percy, the bearded tactician onboard Artemis who scrapped for his team's life.

"We can't tell you," Percy when asked to tip a winner.

"It's genuinely going to come down to the wire. What I can tell you is that it will be the most entertaining sporting contest of 2017."