Hit Or Miss?: BP chief Tony Hayward enjoys Isle of Wight yacht race

Deep water: Another PR howler by Tony Hayward.

As oil continued to spill out of the Gulf of Mexico, the BP CEO spent the day with his son aboard the yacht he co-owns at the JP Morgan Asset Management Round The Island Race off the Isle of Wight. The White House said the move was one of a 'long line of PR gaffes and mistakes' by Hayward, while environmental groups said the outing was 'insulting' to those affected by the disaster.

HOW I SEE IT - NICK CLARK, MD, CONSOLIDATED PR

Like it or not, Tony Hayward must realise he is now the central character in the Deepwater Horizon crisis. He has become a lightning conductor as people seek to apportion blame. Stepping back from it and getting back to normal is not an option.

Observers will scrutinise BP and its executives for signs of contrition, sympathy and understanding. He must accept his life has changed and that he may not get it back in the short term. His trip this weekend could be seen in the same light as the state-owned bankers who partied through the credit crunch. Everyone's entitled to some relaxation, but he needs to relax in private.

His actions must indicate that his values and perspective are in line with public opinion. Heading off for very public downtime, whether at the weekend or not, needs to be off his agenda.

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