Four months after the jubilant announcement of Germany's first-ever entry into the America's Cup sailing regatta, power plays and a serious injury has put United Internet Team Germany's existence under intense pressure.
United Internet Team Germany (l.), could not beat cup defender Alinghi
The management behind the German syndicate, the team and its sponsors, underwent a dramatic shake-up over the weekend, after syndicate head Uwe Sasse fired team leader and sailing sage Andreas John. Press spokesman Andreas Klinger was let go as well.
"Following our observations of the last few months, weeks and, especially the last days, we didn't only see that it wasn't going to work, but that we were going to have to quickly find a solution," said Sasse (photo). "John was no longer able to fulfil his duties."
Uwe Sasse (l.) has created waves by firing the popular team leader Andreas John
Power play at work?
John, the only serious sailor on the management team, was likely feeling pressure after the team failed to put on a good showing in the preliminary racing leading up to the 2007 America's Cup regatta in Valencia, Spain.
After completing six of 14 "acts" or sets of races, Germany is in 10th place out of 12 boats, far behind Cup defenders Alinghi, of Switzerland, and second-place BMW/Oracle Racing, from San Francisco.
But insiders told German papers that John flew because he lost power plays between him and Sasse, something Sasse denies. John said he wasn't expecting to be let go.
"The firing comes out of the blue," John told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. "The reasons weren't convincing, and vague."
The commodore of the Yacht Club backing the syndicate, Deutsche Challenger Yacht Club, said that John's firing was not limited to the lack of success on the water.
"The reasons are much deeper," Willy Kuhweide told the German television station ARD. "John was a scapegoat."
Dangerous fall shakes crew
John's firing worsened the mood of the already despondent crew. On Friday, crew member Christian Buck suffered a dramatic fall while working on the boat's mast before racing started in Malmö, Sweden this weekend. The injuries he sustained put him in the hospital in serious condition. Though Buck is recovering well, the crew is having a tough time.
United Internet's performance isn't helping, especially their current 10th place ranking. Though no one expected them to complete the 14 acts of preliminary racing even near the top (which would have allowed them to challenge cup defender Alinghi for the 154-year-old sailing trophy), backers and analysts had hoped they would be performing better than they currently are.