ANNAPOLIS -- To those who have watched him flower into a superb competitive sailor, Charlie Scott is an enigma: a player who doesn't play games.

"I can't even picture him in a coat and tie," chuckled sailmaker Will Keyworth, who has known Scott since childhood.

"He should have done an Olympics or America's Cup by now," said international sailing guru Gary Jobson. "He's easily one of the 10 best sailors in America, but someone needs to guide him into focusing on the international scene. Otherwise, the clock runs out . . ."

"Here's this guy walking down Main Street with his belly hanging out of his shirt," said a longtime Bay rival who begged anonymity. "He never combs his hair, and yet he has the ability to win the America's Cup."

To all of which Scott, 33, says he's been too busy running his ramshackle boatyard on Whitehall Creek, raising a family and racing sailboats to worry about social appearances or throw away a year or two on some high-stakes international quest.

"When are the Olympic trials, anyway, in May?" he said with obvious irritation. "That's right in the middle of my {boatyard} season. What am I supposed to do, just walk away from my business?"

For those who think the sailing world is all pastel slacks, blue blazers and cocktail parties at the club, here's a glimpse of a typical morning in the life of the Chesapeake Bay's hottest skipper:

It's 8:30. Scott, dressed as usual in battered khaki shorts, paint-spattered T-shirt and grubby boat shoes, is trying to haul his neighbor's crab boat, Selma C., to clear the propeller, which has a crab pot wrapped around it.

But a steel pin is missing from Scott's travel-lift, rendering it unusable. "I know we have more of those pins around somewhere," says Scott, scratching his red hair.

He disappears, reappears, vanishes into an incredibly dusty office, comes up with a stepladder, clambers atop the Pepsi machine, vaults onto a shed roof and starts picking through an accumulation of junk.

"Got it!" he hollers after a while, and soon enough has the crab boat up. "I'll charge you $30," he tells the crabber. "That's a bushel of crabs to you. You'll make that back in no time. That's fair, isn't it?"

"I'm still getting $40 a bushel for No. 1s," admits the crabber.

"Hell," says Scott, "I should have charged you more."

If it sounds like the unaffected ebb and flow of commerce on some sleepy creek instead of the financial ruminations of a world-class sailor, so it is, and Scott looks every bit as comfortable bantering with crabbers as he does negotiating with yachtsmen who bring him their sailboats to set up for racing. Maybe more so.

"Charlie is an earthy, gutty guy," said his mentor, Arnie Gay, a veteran Annapolis sailor who took Scott on his first ocean race at about age 12. "If he has a problem, it's that he's too honest. I've always said I'll speak my mind when I'm 70. Charlie already does."

Nowhere does Scott speak his mind more dynamically than on a boat, where after a lifetime of racing and working in boatyards, he knows what there is to know. The no-shouting trend Dennis Conner started among racing skippers with his calm display during televised America's Cup finals somehow bypassed Scott. "Smitty!" he shouted at trusted crewman Charlie Smith in a stiff blow during the Annapolis Yacht Club summer race recently. "Smitty!"

Scott was upset because the spinnaker wouldn't come down on his J-36, Smiling Banshee. It was stuck in a fitting up the mast, all but stopping the boat while the rest of the fleet thundered along. Scott barked orders from the cockpit, but it wasn't getting results.

He left the helm to Keyworth and came bounding up the deck. He shot past the startled crew, grabbed up the bottom of the flailing sail, heaved and hauled it to the bow and, with white water cascading around him as the boat pounded into a steep chop, began yanking away demonically.

Down came the spinnaker in a clattering heap. "Help me!" Scott hollered. Crewmen ran forward to gather it. Scott scurried back to reclaim the helm and within seconds was shouting again: "Everybody off the {deleted} bow! Let's get this {deleted} boat moving!"

Smooth? No, but very effective, and from the results of his competitive forays so far, most of what Scott does is.

This month, he heads to Massachusetts and then Texas in pursuit of the nation's two top amateur sailing championships, the Mallory Cup men's title and the Prince of Wales Cup for match racing, having won highly competitive local and regional trials to make the 10-boat finals.

Rarely does anyone shoot for both trophies the same year, and no one has won them in tandem since 1970. But few from the Chesapeake region would be surprised if Scott came home a double winner.

He won the Sears Cup, the junior men's national title, in 1971 at age 17; the world championship in hotly contested J-24 class in 1979; the prestigious Southern Ocean Racing Circuit in 1985 aboard Smiles, a production J-41 he built from a kit; class honors in the 1986 SORC, and in June took five first places to win overall honors in Block Island Race Week in Smiling Banshee, a bank-repossessed, 6-year-old sloop he bought at auction and rebuilt over the winter.

Scott's comment on the success at Block Island: "Expensive. That week alone cost me over $4,000."

Sailing being the sport of the rich, it is not supposed to favor those who worry about piddling amounts like $4,000. So how does Scott flourish in this high-priced game?

"In sailing," said Jobson, "there are a lot of untalented people who come into a race well-prepared, and a lot of talented people who come in unprepared, but very few do both. Charlie does both."

"His biggest asset is preparation for a regatta, which not all of us do," said Larry Leonard, who trimmed the mainsail on America II in last year's America's Cup. "The boat, the crew -- he spends the time to get it right."

Smiling Banshee, for example, looks battered, but catch it on land and run a hand across the bottom: smooth as silk. "For the SORC in '85," said Jack Quinn, who owns a half-share in Smiling Banshee, "Charlie spent over 500 hours just preparing the bottom on Smiles. Nobody does that."

Scott sails with a crew of local sailors he's used for years. "He doesn't have any stars on the boat," said Quinn, which makes decision-making simpler.

And he knows intuitively the little things he needs to do to make a boat go fast, Scott himself says. "You might see Charlie jumping all around the cockpit, yelling and carrying on, but you watch the wheel and it doesn't move an inch," said Gay.

Finally, there's Scott's remarkable natural ability to gauge the wind and water and to tell where he is on the race course and where he needs to be.

"I call him the red-headed computer," said Keyworth. "It's just like a quarterback reading a defense. He can look around and make an instant mental picture of where everyone else is and how he stands in relation to them. Then, when he looks again, he knows who's gaining and losing and he makes his move."

Modern sailors call a skipper with Scott's innate ability a "vector head." "It's angles and geometry, speed and distance . . . It's not something you learn. He was born with it," Keyworth said.

Scott, who skipped college to go straight to work in Gay's boatyard after graduating from Annapolis High School, comes by his skills honestly. His father, Gaither, a commercial photographer, used to run roughshod over the competition in the Bay much the way his son does now. Charlie's brother, Jimmy, runs his own sail loft in town and is a top-notch racer.

Nor is the international scene he's being urged to tackle totally alien to Scott. In 1980, his father was the New York Yacht Club's Race Committee chairman for the America's Cup. It was the last year NYYC defended the Cup successfully.

Scott says he has little interest in the Cup. "I don't want to put two or three years in, waiting for some computer to give me a boat that may or may not win," he said. "There's too much else to do in sailing."

But those close to him say if the right deal came along, including a salary to pay the freight while he was off sailing a 12-meter, he'd jump.

Of course he'd have to refine his act. "He's got that slouchy, don't-give-a-damn attitude," said Gay, "but don't worry about Charlie. He can put on his little coat and tie . . ."