Oprah sails with Russell Crowe

US talkshow queen Oprah Winfrey sailed a postcard-perfect Sydney Harbour with Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe on Monday as she unveiled an all-star lineup for her Opera House tapings

Winfrey, 56, hit the famous harbour’s glittering waters on board the “Eagle Rock” with Crowe, a Sydney local, tailed by a flotilla of some 20 other yachts.

Wearing a white cap given to her by Crowe and emblazoned with the logo of his South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league team, Winfrey beamed as she sat at the stern of the boat, talking sport with the “Gladiator” star.

“I’m having the time of my life,” Winfrey said.

The harbour featured heavily on the megastar’s weekend itinerary, with a glittering waterfront reception Saturday night, complete with fireworks, followed by a Sunday morning climb of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a visit to Bondi Beach.

Australia paid 2.3 million US dollars to lure the talkshow diva Down Under — mostly to cover accommodation costs — but pundits claim the exposure could be worth more than ten times that amount.

Winfrey has been mobbed by fans across Australia, and was afforded a reception in Melbourne normally reserved for royals or rock-stars.

She will film a double episode extravaganza in front of 12,000 Australian fans in the Sydney Opera House forecourt Tuesday, with special guests to include Crowe, actors Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman and rock group Bon Jovi.

Rapper Jay-Z will also feature on the show, Oprah’s publicists revealed Monday, with a “soaring finale” to star other “special guests” — rumoured by local media to include rock stars U2, who are currently touring Australia.

The Oprah Winfrey Show said they received more than 350,000 requests for the free tickets, with the lucky 12,000 selected by ballot. The harbourfront precinct will be in virtual lockdown for the event, with street closures and police cordons.

So much footage had been gathered in Winfrey’s whirlwind tour the show said it would now screen four episodes of her “Ultimate Australian Adventure” in January 2011.

Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said Winfrey and the 300-strong audience she brought from the United States had visited more than 25 locations across Australia in a vital boost for the ailing tourism industry, struggling with the strong local currency.

“Oprah’s Australian visit is creating some incredibly memorable and powerful moments for what is one of the most successful television shows in history,” Ferguson said.

He said Winfrey’s show aired in 23 of Australia’s 33 priority tourism markets and advertising worth more than 70 million US dollars had already been generated in Australia and the United States.

“In many ways, the value of this deal is priceless,” said Ferguson.