Mark Dunphy has not given up on keeping the next America's Cup in Auckland, despite Team New Zealand cutting ties with the Kiwi rich-lister over what it claims were "devious" attempts to ensure a home defence in 2024.
Dunphy, the chairman of Greymouth Petroleum and the man behind the Kiwi Home Defence campaign, has hit back at comments from Team NZ boss Grant Dalton suggesting the multi-millionaire former investment banker plotted court action against the UK's Royal Yacht Squadron - the Challenger of Record for the next regatta.
Dunphy has proposed a private funding plan for the 37th America's Cup - including $20 million of his own money - to have the next regatta on New Zealand waters. He has denied Dalton's claims, saying yesterday he remains committed to "securing a successful defence" in Auckland.
"We remain surprised at the level of hostility displayed by Team New Zealand in the last few weeks against a group of patriotic New Zealanders with the best intentions," Dunphy said in a statement.
"We are perplexed at their lack of willingness to engage positively with Kiwi Home Defence and their preference for repeatedly dismissing our offers of funding assistance.
"We are buoyed by the messages of support we have received in recent days from many members of the public who are keen to see the Cup defended in Auckland.
"An America's Cup defence on the Waitematā Harbour in March 2024 will be a brilliant coming-out party for New Zealand following the challenges of lockdowns and closed borders caused by the pandemic. It will also help achieve a return on the big investment New Zealanders and Aucklanders have already made in the infrastructure needed to run the America's Cup here."
In a scathing attack on Wednesday night, Dalton claimed to be in possession of a "damning" email - allegedly sent to the Commodore of the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) by Dr Hamish Ross on August 26 - with Dunphy copied in.
Ross previously worked as legal counsel with Alinghi during their 2003, 2007 and 2010 campaigns.
Quoting the email, Team NZ said it outlined the "intentional lobbying of the NYYC to take legal action in the New York Supreme Court against the Challenger of Record [the Royal Yacht Squadron] with a purpose of intentionally disrupting the venue selection process".
While Dunphy acknowledges the existence of the email, he denies instructing Ross to send it.
"As part of his due diligence about the possibilities of raising funds to host the Cup Defence in Auckland, Mr Dunphy has talked to members of the New York Yacht Club about their attitude to Auckland being the venue for the 2024 defence. He has been transparent about this throughout," the statement said.
Dalton has previously claimed that to put on a credible defence of the Cup it needs to be held overseas. He last week delayed announcing the venue for 2024, saying the process had thrown up "three compelling and professional international proposals" - reportedly Cork (Ireland), Barcelona (Spain) and Jeddah (Saudi Arabia).
Speaking to Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking on Thursday, he called Dunphy's efforts a "massive waste of time".
"The opposition offshore will be looking and hearing and just laughing at the time we've had to spend dealing with this. We've got three credible bids.
"Can I say that this is the end of Mark Dunphy but it's not the end of Auckland. It never will be the end of Auckland until it is, effectively. All we are wanting to do is put up a team and a defence that can win the Cup. My sole purpose in life is to retain the Cup in New Zealand, even if that means it must be sailed outside New Zealand to do it."
In response, Dunphy insisted the Kiwi Home Defence "will continue to actively raise funds in support of an America's Cup defence in Auckland in the coming days".
"We believe the defence both can and should be held in Auckland, and that sufficient funding is available from devoted and loyal Team New Zealand supporters, with help from the Government and Auckland Council, to fund both the team and the event.
"We remain ready for face-to-face discussions with the Squadron and TNZ Squadron whenever they are."