Damning revelations from Emirates Team New Zealand sink Kiwi Home Defence campaign

Damning email evidence of a sneaky attempt to oust the British Challenger of Record destroys KHD credibility and ends hopes of New Zealand hosting 37th America's Cup.

Hopes of the 37th America’s Cup taking place in New Zealand in 2024 have gone up in smoke overnight after a devastating broadside from the Defender Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) blew gaping holes in credibility of the Kiwi Home Defence (KHD) campaign led by Auckland businessman Mark Dunphy.

The KHD initiative had appeared to be gathering some momentum in the last week, despite assertions by Emirates Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton that the group’s consortium of un-named backers included two rival billionaire team bosses Ernesto Bertarelli (Alinghi) and Larry Ellison (Oracle Team USA).

Dalton also fingered Dunphy as being behind an attempt by fellow Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) member Doctor Hamish Ross it said aimed to coerce the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) into legal action in the New York Supreme Court to try to depose Ineos Team UK and the Royal Yacht Squadron Ltd. (RYS) as the Challenger of Record for AC37.

Yesterday Dunphy denied these allegations publicly in a statement posted on the KHD website:

“Claims have been made by Grant Dalton about Kiwi Home Defence and our proposal and motives in offering financial backing and support to keep the America’s Cup defence in 2024 in Auckland.

“These claims are false.

“The Kiwi Home Defence team and Mark Dunphy are not working with, or on behalf of, any offshore interests. The Squadron and Team New Zealand are aware of this. Any assertion to the contrary is completely untrue.”

This triggered a fiery statement from ETNZ in which (among other things) it cited an email in the team’s possession from Ross – with Dunphy in direct copy – to Chris Culver ¬– commodore of the New York Yacht Club.

According to the ETNZ release, Ross writes in the email:

“I am assisting a group of prominent New Zealanders seeking to keep the next America's Cup event in Auckland… Through me, the group in NZL are asking the NYYC Club, in fulfilment of its supervisory role, to challenge RYSL over its bona fides as a qualified challenger.

“This may require an interpretation of the Deed to provide clarity for all concerned. The first step would be sending the challenger RYSL a letter and, if there is an unsatisfactory response, seeking an interpretation from the NY Supreme Court.

“Seeking an interpretation would disrupt the venue selection which is due to be announced on 17 September 2021. Given time is of the essence, I have taken the liberty of preparing a suggested form of letter as a starting point for consideration.

“Assuming RYSL cannot qualify as a challenger, the NYYC's challenge of 7 May 2021 as the next qualified challenge filed after RYSL's challenge, would cause NYYC to become the next COR, with the new Protocol to be agreed between RNZYS and the NYYC.”

As a reminder, on May 8 this year the NYYC unexpectedly issued a challenge for the 37th America’s Cup – along with what it described as an evolutionary draft protocol for the event.

The challenge and the protocol were politely rebuffed by ETNZ, but according to the team’s latest statement that NYYC challenge was allegedly hand delivered to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron by Ross.

How much time the NYYC spent discussing Ross’ proposal is not clear. In the end though they rejected it.

How the email from Ross made its way to ETNZ is not clear, but in the team statement Dalton congratulated the NYYC decision.

“We applaud Commodore Culver and the NYYC for wanting no part and rejecting Mr Ross and Mr Dunphy’s overtures,” Dalton said.

Meanwhile, Aaron Young, commodore of the RNZYS today issued his own statement expressing his concern and disappointment over the revelations in the ETNZ press release.

“RNZYS as Trustee of the America’s Cup is very aware of the responsibilities that brings. The RNZYS General Committee is responsible for all decisions the Club makes including anything to do with the America’s Cup and will in due course consider any further action.

“ETNZ and RNZYS have an agreement with ETNZ who is responsible for conducting the defence of the 37th America’s Cup. As our representative team, ETNZ have the full support of the RNZYS.

“RNZYS has a preference that the defence be held in Auckland with the caveat that there is funding to run a credible defence together with support from Local & Central Government.”

Unsurprisingly, ETNZ has now ceased all dealings with Dunphy and Ross – effectively ending any chance of the America’s Cup taking place in Auckland in 2024.

“Emirates Team New Zealand is disappointed by Mark Dunphy’s underhanded and deceitful attempts to undermine the RNZYS, ETNZ and the RYS with his despicable actions,” Dalton said in the team statement.

“We gave him every opportunity to tell us himself, but he chose not to and as far as we are concerned this puts an end to a regrettable chapter in AC37.”

With Auckland now off the table, three choices now remain: Cork in southern Ireland, Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, and an ‘All of Spain’ bid centred around Barcelona.

Last week ETNZ extended the deadline for the AC37 host venue bidding process run by Origin Sports – but did not say for how long.

Ireland’s government was unable to commit by the previous September 17 deadline and asked for up to six more months to decide. Meanwhile, the workings of Spain’s political system mean a decision from there is unlikely to come much quicker.

Which leaves Jeddah, who are believed to have submitted a government backed offer before the original deadline, surely leaving the the Saudi Arabian city in pole position to host the next cycle of the America’s Cup in three years’ time.