Prime Minister Bob Hawke tried to give 15 million Australians the day off to celebrate the America's Cup victory over the Americans, but had to withdraw the holiday.

Hawke has no power to order his countrymen to celebrate. But, no matter, celebrate they did.

The prime minister himself, the most famous reformed drinker in the country--having given it up four years ago--appeared to be one of the few sober adults in the nation. Champagne by the bucketful and enough of the famous Australian beer to sink every boat off Newport were downed by a nation celebrating what most people here regard as the country's greatest sporting feat.

Although he had to retract the national holiday edict, Hawke drew on his 10 years experience in the 1970s as head of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the equivalent of the AFL-CIO, to issue a stern warning. "Let's put it this way," he said. "Any boss who sacks anyone today for not turning up to work is a bum."

But for the moment, it was jingoistic jubilation that swept across Australia.

Normally staid newspapers like the mass-circulation Melbourne Herald, the flagship of the country's biggest media empire, were caught up in the excitement following Australia II's win.

The Herald hit the streets today with a huge Australian flag across the top of Page One with a two-inch-high banner headline printed in red. It read, "Australia's Day."

There also was a rare front-of-the-paper editorial headlined, "Whacko! It's the oz cup." For those who have not encountered Aussiespeak, "whacko" is a local expression meaning something like "whoopee."

The editorial read, "Terrific. Wonderful. Abso-bloody-lutely marvelous. After 132 years, that yachting trinket coveted throughout the world as the America's Cup is now leaving America for a new home in Australia."

Workers in pubs, the prime minister and editorial writers were not the only Australians celebrating the victory.

The normally staid Westpac Bank, the biggest and oldest Australian banking house, erected a huge flag outside its headquarters in Martin Place, Sydney's main street.

It read, "We Undid It," referring to the ceremony of unbolting the cup from the New York Yacht Club's table.

At the Middle Harbor Yacht Club in Sydney, there was kissing, hugging, dancing and boozing at breakfast time as the Australian yacht crossed the finish line at Newport.

Brian Burke, the premier (equivalent to governor) of Alan Bond's state of Western Australia, promised a mammoth welcome home for the team.

"We are planning a reception of the sort that has never been seen before," he said. It is certain to be awash in Swan beer, the local Perth drop made, coincidentally, in a brewery owned by Bond, Australia II's owner.