A group of Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron members are calling for a special meeting to prevent the defence of the America's Cup from being taken offshore.
The squadron rather than Team New Zealand is the holder of the Auld Mug, and commodore Aaron Young says it wants the world's oldest international sporting trophy to be defended here but "the reality is that currently there is not a valid option to do so".
Even before Team New Zealand successfully defended the Cup in Auckland in March, chief executive Grant Dalton was seeking interest in taking the next match offshore.
After months of threats to challenge any move to take the Cup offshore, on Monday a petition was circulated seeking the support of 25 full or "town" members to call for a special meeting.
At the meeting, a motion would be put forward that the Cup "would be defended in the waters adjacent to the City of Auckland".
By Tuesday afternoon members of the group behind the petition said they had the necessary support. Around 6pm the petition was submitted to the RNZYS with 33 signatures.
The petition was submitted on behalf of Jim Farmer QC, a former director of Team New Zealand who has recently been issuing legal threats to Team New Zealand and the squadron, demanding the Cup be held in New Zealand.
"You can't have 25 people all separately sending it in, so I put my hand up and said I'll send it in," Farmer said.
Farmer is an honorary, rather than a full member, but signed the petition "as I wanted to be associated with it" even though he appreciated he did not have voting rights.
A group of lawyers had reviewed the proposed motion and were all satisfied that the requirements to call the meeting had been met.
Farmer said it was not difficult to get the necessary support and he was confident that, if it were put to a vote, the motion would be carried.
"There are always people who believe in a cause who don't like their names being put out there in public, so there are quite a lot of members who would be in that category, but we're confident, I think, that, when it goes to a vote, as it should do, it will definitely have the numbers, very easily," Farmer said.
"Getting 25 people to put their names on something, no, it wasn't too difficult."
The action was required because a number of people, including oil and gas magnate Mark Dunphy, had written to the squadron seeking assurances the Cup would be held in New Zealand, which the squadron had repeatedly refused to give.
"So I think the whole point of this petition is to make it plain that the squadron has got to stand up and take the decision itself. It's its decision, not Team New Zealand's decision, of where the Cup should be," Farmer said.
Young has not responded to a request for comment on the possibility of a special meeting.
The protocol for the next America's Cup is scheduled to be released tomorrow although it is not clear whether Team New Zealand will announce where it wants to hold the event.
Hamish Ross, a lawyer with extensive experience with the America's Cup was confident the resolution met the requirements of the RNZYS to force a vote of members.
"It's been carefully drafted and reviewed by a group of people who are all of the same mind and it meets the requirements of the rules," said Ross, who confirmed he was also one of the signatories.
If the RNZYS does agree to hold a meeting, it is not clear when it would happen because of Covid-19 restrictions. Ross said the club's rules were "quite antiquated" with no consideration given for online voting or meetings.
Dunphy, who has promised tens of millions of dollars towards defending the America's Cup in Auckland is also understood to be one of the petition's signatories.
The squadron was due to hold a meeting before the end of August but has not been able to do so because of the latest Auckland lockdown.
The petition calling for a special meeting noted that because the meeting had not been held, the elected committee did not hold a mandate from members.
"Without a current mandate, no significant decisions for the Club can or should be made, including any determination of a venue for the defence of the America's Cup."