BP CEO Tony Hayward finally got part of his life back Saturday as he took a break from his oil spill
duties in the Gulf of Mexico and on Capitol Hill
to attend a yacht race around the Isle of Wight
in the English Channel.
Robert Wine, a BP spokesman in Houston, told the Associated Press
it was the first break Hayward has had since the April 20 explosion of a rig blew open a deep sea well and gushed tens of millions of gallons oil into Gulf waters. The oil surged onto the beaches and marshlands of four states. Hayward famously irritated Gulf residents weeks ago with his comment that he wished to resolve the crisis, because "I'd like my life back."
As word of the yacht race spread to the Internet, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel
pounced on the latest in a "long line of PR gaffes" by BP. "He got his life back, as he would say," Emanuel told ABC News This Week
. The annual J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race
attracted more than 1,700 vessels -- including Hayward's 52-footer, "Bob" -- and 1,600 sailors, from famous yachtsmen to wealthy amateurs. And Hayward wasn't the only one to take some time off on Saturday. President Obama and Vice President Biden
got in a round of golf, according to the White House pool.
Hayward is "spending a few hours with his family at a weekend. I'm sure that everyone would understand that," Wine said. "He will be back to deal with the response. It doesn't detract from that at all." But Hayward's continuing role in the "response" to the disaster is not entirely clear. On Friday, following his rocky appearance on Capitol Hill, BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg suggested that Hayward was pulling back from the day-to-day operation. But BP spokeswoman Sheila Williams told the AP on Saturday that Hayward would remain "very much in charge until we've stopped the leak."
In the Gulf of Mexico, BP's containment device captured 25,290 barrels of the oil gushing from the near-mile deep well on Thursday, according to the New York Times
. That's the most collected in a single day since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and spewing oil into Gulf waters. Experts believe 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil are pouring into the Gulf on a daily basis, fouling beaches, killing wildlife and destroying fisheries.
Although BP officials still say it will be August before two relief wells are completed -- the best solution to plugging the leak -- one of the wells is now within 200 feet of its destination below the sea floor, BP officials said, according to the Times.
So there was some good news from the Gulf. But there was also more bad news for BP.
The company's 25 percent partner in the well, Anadarko Petroleum, on Friday accused the oil giant of "reckless decisions and actions" prior to the rig explosion, the Washington Post
reported. Anadarko chief executive Jim Hackett said in a statement that information coming out of the investigation
of the accident indicates "BP operated unsafely and failed to monitor and react to several critical warning signs during the drilling of the Macondo well." Hackett's remarks have financial implications, the Post said, since his company, as a partner, would ordinarily be financially responsible for part of the cleanup and damage costs. BP's actions "likely represent gross negligence or willful misconduct and thus affect the obligations of the parties under the operating agreement," Hackett said. BP said it "strongly disagrees" with the Anadarko statement.
Back at the races in England, it was not clear whether Hayward actually participated or just watched the spectacle. He didn't show up "on any of the crew list," a press officer at the event said. A British news agency snapped a photo of a guy it believed was Hayward on the yacht that he owns with other investors, the AP said. But BP would not confirm that it was him.