After yet another embarrassing public relations gaffe this weekend, BP announced today that it’s CEO, Tony Hayward, will not attending a conference in London of major oil companies. The battered executive spent Saturday competing in a yacht race off the Isle of Wight in his own 52 foot, $700,000 sailboat, the “Bob”. Hayward finished in fourth place at the race, and in last place with those in the Gulf of Mexico.

Last week was full of bad press for BP. Following a meeting at the White House arranging for a $20 Billion dollar relief fund, the BP Chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg told reporters that his company “cares about the small people”. This lit a firestorm of outrage among the millions of U.S. citizens now impacted by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Then Hayward himself appeared before Congress and was beaten up and tongue lashed by nearly every Congressman. Only Joe Barton (R-TX) was supportive of Hayward and BP.

On Friday, Svanberg announced that Hayward would no longer be in direct control of BP’s response to the oil spill. He was replaced by Robert Dudley who will oversee the day-to-day operations of stopping the leak and cleaning up the spilt oil. So it appeared to many that Hayward got “his life back” when he was spotted sailing in the posh yacht race on Saturday, referring to an earlier gaffe made by Hayward.

Today’s announcement from BP that Tony Hayward will not be appearing at the London oil conference, where he was scheduled to deliver a speech qualifies for another gaffe. The reason BP gave is that Hayward is due to, “very heavy schedule of commitments to the Gulf of Mexico”. The World National Oil Companies Congress will begin tomorrow. Hayward was to give the keynote address about the global responsibilities of oil companies. Uh-huh! Bp also announced today that to spill rate may be as high as 100,000 barrels of oil per day, up from last week’s figures of 35,000 to 60,000. Tonight, the BBC will be airing a documentary on the spill, including an interview with a robot operator, Tyrone Benton, who claims he spotted a leak in the shut-off valve two weeks prior to the explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon rig. I suspect that BP wants to keep Hayward out of the public spotlight, perhaps as they prepare to fire him.