The Man in Charge: Tony Hayward Ditches Gulf For Yacht Race

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The storyline Friday was that Hayward was handing over oil spill oversight to other members of the BP team. But on Saturday, the company raced to reassert that Hayward was indeed the man in charge in the Gulf – right around the time the CEO was attending a yacht race in England. (via AP)

Throughout the weekend, BP was engaged in damage control, rushing to assure the world that Hayward was still intricately involved in the ongoing crisis in the Gulf. Early Saturday, spokeswoman Sheila Williams told the New York Times that Hayward was not abandoning his involvement at all. “Tony receives regular updates from the Gulf,” Williams wrote in an e-mail, noting that Hayward oversees all BP operations.

Spills included.

But these reassurances were being made on the same day that Hayward was flying across the Atlantic, to attend a yacht race off the coast of England. “He is having some rare private time with his son,” Williams said.

It was unclear how many gallons of oil leaked into the gulf during Hayward’s absence on Saturday. But plenty clear: The resentment felt by Gulf residents and officials, upon learning of his departure. “I’m glad Mr. Hayward is on a yacht, because he certainly hasn’t been helping us,” Robert Craft told the AP. Craft is the mayor of Gulf Shores, Louisiana. (Check out BP’s biggest blunders)

While BP has been beset with PR snafoos as of late – notably Hayward saying that he “wanted his life back” – there was also some good news for the CEO Saturday: His yacht finished fourth out of 45 in one of the world’s biggest single-day yacht events.

Not too shabby.