HOW TIME flies. Barely one year on from the Deepwater disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, former BP boss Tony Hayward is out of his depth again – only this time he is steering Bob, his Farr 52 yacht, around a treacherous rock off the coast of Ireland.

Hayward, who spent last week competing at Cowes, is currently on board one of the 318 competing yachts in the Rolex Fastnet Race – a 608-mile sprint from Cowes to Plymouth via Fastnet Rock, the outcrop that was the last sight of Ireland for emigrants to the US.

As the fleet set sail yesterday, the favourite to win the race was Mike Slade, the seafaring chief executive of property developer Helical Bar, who is racing ICAP Leopard. Slade, who set the race record in 2007, is being given a run for his money by “the fastest boat on the water”, the trimaran Maxi Banque Populaire V, which is in turn being chased by Ran, the 72-footer owned by Skype founder Niklas Zennström and Rambler 100, the 100-foot Maxi piloted by former United Technologies Corporation chief executive George David.

Meanwhile, Julian Metherell, the finance director of Vallares, the cash shell founded by Hayward with financier Nat Rothschild, is racing the Class 40 yacht MAX VMG, with former BP executive John Manzoni also on board.

High stakes indeed as the contest moves into its closing leg, with the fastest boat expected to finish in Plymouth late this evening. “If they are lucky with the weather,” said a race spokesperson ominously, no doubt mindful of the 1979 competition when stormy conditions claimed 15 lives.

ARE Arki Busson and Uma Thurman an item once more? The glamorous pair have RSVP’d as a couple for a party for “the elite of the elite” on 8 September, organised by hedge fund tycoon Lord Stanley Fink and his business partner David Johnstone.

No “Arki Busson plus one”; the advance list of confirmed attendees for The World Wide Launch Party – a launch extravaganza for The Global Party the following week – clearly states: “Arki Busson and Uma Thurman, financier and actress.”

Of course, the Swiss philanthropist may be bringing Thurman as his date out of a shared commitment to raise the profile of his charity Ark, one of the beneficiaries of the event. Or the old friends may simply want to catch up on past times.

Whatever – with hotelier Sir Sol Kerzner, Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson, Diageo CEO Paul Walsh and retail mogul Sir Philip Green also expected to show up at the Natural History Museum fundraiser for 2,000 guests, the evening won’t be short on surprises. “A lot of things will be secret until the night,” said a mysterious mole.