BP chief executive Tony Hayward has come under fire in the US for taking a break from the Gulf oil clean-up to watch his boat sail in a yacht race off the Isle of Wight.
In a statement, BP described the outing as "a rare moment of private time" and said that "no matter where he is, he is always in touch with what is happening within BP" and can direct recovery operations if required.
But Mr Hayward, who has come under fire for verbal gaffes that some said suggested he was tone-deaf to the mood in America, was immediately criticised in the US.[..]
Richard Shelby, Republican senator for the Gulf state of Alabama, said during a tour of areas affected by the spill: "People here are not on their yachts today.
"I believe it's the height of arrogance. He is the chief executive of BP, he was testifying in Washington and now he's going out on his yacht in England. That yacht should be here, skimming and cleaning up the oil."
A ban on fishing in much of the Gulf of Mexico and sharp fall in tourism means that many fishing vessels and pleasure boats have been forced to remain at dock because of spill caused by an the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig.
Mr Hayward watched his boat Bob take part in the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race. BP would not say whether or not he had joined his crew was on board, or was spectating from afar. A BP spokeswoman refused to comment beyond saying that the embattled chief executive was at the race with his son.
Peta Stuart-Hunt, a press officer for the event, said Mr Hayward "wasn't listed on any of the crew list. If he is on the boat, he's in contravention of the rules."