UNDER-fire BP boss Tony Hayward came under fresh criticism today after he attended a yachting event on the Isle of Wight.

He was reportedly relaxing at the Round the Island Race as company officials insisted their embattled chief executive was still in charge of the operation to control the Gulf of Mexico spill amid confusion over his role.

A yacht named Bob that is co-owned by Mr Hayward was taking part in the JP Morgan Asset Management event today.

Hugh Walding, the co-ordinator of the Isle of Wight Friends of the Earth, criticised Mr Hayward for his outing, saying he deserved all the criticism he was getting over his failure to control the oil spill.

He said: ''I'm sure that this will be seen as yet another public relations disaster for him from people who have got exceedingly upset about this whole thing.

''Personally I don't think that the bloke is particularly competent from the results that he has delivered. He obviously doesn't have the technical know-how but he should at least be managing the image of the company better.''

Charlie Kronick, of Greenpeace, said Mr Hayward's actions were ''rubbing salt into the wounds'' of people whose communities are affected by the catastrophe.

He said: ''The whole process has been a disaster but what is far worse is that BP's recklessness caused the accident in the first place.

''What has happened in the Gulf of Mexico is as a result of Hayward's own agenda to go for the marginal, unconventional barrels of oil.

''If that's what they are going to do, by walking so closely to the edge, then one day they are going to fall over it.

''Clearly it is incredibly insulting for him to be sailing in the Isle of Wight but the fact is that him being there hasn't stopped the leak.

''It is a disaster in every sense but what it has done is given Obama, for the first time in his presidency, the chance to change the approach to oil and energy in general.''

The crisis that has followed the blast on the Deepwater Horizon well, which killed 11 workers, has seen millions of gallons of oil continuing to threaten the Gulf Coast. It is America's worst environmental disaster and has led to tensions between the US administration and BP.

Yesterday the company's chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said Mr Hayward had been relieved of day-to-day control of the spill and that BP managing director Bob Dudley would now take over.

However other BP officials insisted Mr Hayward remained in charge of the operation.

Bp says it has made "significant progress" in controlling the leak. The well is scheduled to be killed in August.

Latest estimates suggest 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day are continuing to pour from the ruptured well.

Mr Hayward has pledged that BP would foot the entire clean-up bill but insisted it was ''too early to say'' what caused the spill.