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Auckland, NZ — The scarcity of tickets to the Louis Vuitton Cup party in Auckland this month was jeopardizing marriages. The cup — currently being fought out among software billionaire Larry Ellison’s Oracle BMW Racing, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen and Craig McCaw’s OneWorld, Swiss pharmaceutical king Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi and Prada — determines which yacht club challenges the existing holder of the America’s Cup, and the golden ticket was offered to so few people, that some married invitees ended up sending back their single admittances in outrage.

In any case, there were sure to be takers for any spares. Unalloyed glamour doesn’t visit the city of Auckland very often, whereas inclement weather does, so even the downpour of unseasonable rain couldn’t dampen spirits.

This story first appeared in the December 12, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

In accordance with tradition, the venue was kept a secret until the last minute. Even while boarding the ferries that would transport them to the party, guests weren’t told where they were headed. Past venues have included Hammersmith Farm, the site of John F. Kennedy’s and Jacqueline Bouvier’s wedding reception, and the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. With the idea of topping the magnificence of each successive party, this time the party committee went for a naval dry dock, turning it into a dramatic, half-submerged landscape. “It’s amazing, because it’s quite a scruffy old area, and they’ve completely transformed it,” commented Sir Michael Fay, the first New Zealander to challenge for the America’s Cup.

The party venue may well be the only genuine secret in an event awash with allegations of stolen design secrets and a lawsuit brought against OneWorld. The rival tech billionaires were all missing from the evening’s celebrations, but Billy Crudup and Mary-Louise Parker came for the festivities.

Meanwhile, possibly sensing that a gravy train had pulled fleetingly into their station, many Auckland guests scoffed freshly shucked oysters and swigged the Moët at an alarming rate. Later in the evening, more than one guest was seen exiting the dance floor by hurtling down the rain-slicked staircase.

But if the locals were behaving somewhat ungraciously, it had no visible effect on “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” star Chen Chang, who embodied an elegant serenity and was surrounded by the most gorgeous women at the party, including Hong Kong actress Shu Qi.

Former “Baywatch” star Nicole Eggert, covering the party for E!, reportedly suffered from the overzealous attentions of four smitten members of Prada’s team. Members of her crew confirm that since “Charles in Charge,” she has often been the victim of a deranged brand of infatuation, and in fact, it was later discovered that her hotel room had been broken into and personal effects had been taken.

Once racing resumed on Monday, Louis Vuitton’s guests relaxed in deck chairs and ate more seafood. When racing was eventually canceled, because of high winds, Bollywood actress Simi Garewal shared her impressive yogic knowledge, neatly tucking Eggert’s feet behind her ears.

Out on the water, Crudup, who had ridden on the stern of an America’s Cup yacht the day before, was fizzing with the enthusiasm of a small child, bounding around the boat and doting on Parker, who could only manage to nurse a Coke, and turn a pretty shade of green.

Although Parker admitted groggily, “I know nothing about any of it,” the drama of four billionaires’ embattled egos all wrestling for the Louis Vuitton Cup had Crudup bemused. “They should just go at each other in bumper cars or something.”

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