The company also said that, had there been a need, Hayward would have left the event and attended to any urgent work matters.

IN DEPTH

Al Jazeera's John Terrett, reporting from Venice, Louisiana, at the heart of the US coast affected by the giant oil spill, explained that Cowes Week, the event which Hayward was attending, was a major social event on the British calendar.

The Cowes Week website describes itself as the "largest sailing regatta of its kind in the world" and a "great mix of competitive sailing and social activities".

The US president and his officials have been highly critical of Hayward over some public statements he has made since the spill began in April.

The spill has been described as the US' worst environmental disaster ever [GALLO/GETTY]

Barack Obama wondered aloud in a television interview this month about "whose ass to kick" over the spill and said that he would have fired Hayward if the BP chief had worked for him.

Hayward was widely criticised and quickly apologised for complaining he wanted his "life back" weeks after the April 20 Deepwater Horizon offshore rig explosion that killed 11 workers and led to the worst oil spill in US history.

"Well, to quote Tony Hayward, he's got his life back, as he would say," Emanuel said, commenting on his attendance at the yacht race in an interview taped for ABC's This Week programme that was to be aired on Sunday.

"And I think we can all conclude that Tony Hayward is not going to have a second career in PR consulting."

Oil collection stalls

But he added that "there's really a substance here that matters".

"That's clearly a PR mistake, but he's made a number of those mistakes. What's important is: are we capping the well? Are we capturing the oil? Are we containing the cleanup? Are we filing the claims? Are we also cleaning up the mess? That's what's important."

The flap over Hayward's attendance at the regatta came as BP's oil-collection in the Gulf stalled for 10 hours on Saturday over a problem with a piece of fire-prevention equipment.

BP said it restarted the system after fixing the problem and waiting for a lightning storm to pass.