Local character makes a name for himself

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Alden Bugly, Annapolis waterfront fixture with an aversion to yacht club culture, is planning an ‘anti-regatta’

Alden Bugly, Annapolis waterfront fixture with an aversion to yacht club culture, is planning an ‘anti-regatta’

Alden Bugly is a certified nautical character who hangs out in the Maritime Republic of Eastport but resides in ye olde downtown Annapolis. A retired ocean racer, bon vivant, creative computer blogger and would-be Dada artist, he is devoted to running small boat races at the Severn Sailing Association.

Although Bugly is a figment of his own imagination, that is of no matter. He dwells inside the stocky body of John Potter, who, after officiating at hundreds of Annapolis regattas, has decided to mount his own regatta — The MacBugly.

He passes out business cards with the Web site, www.macbugly.com, that describes the upcoming event as “an intense, intergenerational, co-ed, interclass regatta wrapped in athleticism with decisions issued at nano-tech speeds. It celebrates racers of small one-design sailboats who have mastered light air and tricky currents no matter where they’re from or what they look like.”

The Great Inaugural MacBugly Anti-Regatta Regatta, planned for Aug. 5 and 6 somewhere off Annapolis, could be a one-off event, although Bugly would prefer it be a seminal, semi-mystical annual celebration filled with street parties, fun, and “foo de boite.”

Conceived in his tiny Fooville apartment, which is also a central communications computer center for the Alden Bugly Foundation, of which he is the founder and sole member, this one-of-a-kind regatta is sanctioned by no official sailing establishment except the one that makes decisions in his own mind.

“There are no committees to run things except me and my committee of one,” he explains. Participatory restrictions include no navy blue blazers, club ties, turned-up polo collars, Breton red shorts or Mount Gay Rum regatta hats. “Foam-dome trucker hats and bowling club T-shirts will be the preferred attire,” he says.

Bugly “will consider invitation requests” from the following one-design classes: 210, 420, 505, Albacore, Chesapeake 20, Comet, Day Sailer, Etchells, Flying Scott, Hampton, Jet 14, J/80, J/22, J/24, Laser Radial, Lightning, Melges 24, Optimist, Penguin, Soling, Star, Thistle, Vanguard 15 and Viper 640. That’s a pretty wide variety of small boats, but Bugly knows the subject well and has lined up sponsors, and even come up with a trophy.

As a member of Severn Sailing Association’s standing race committee, he serves as principal race officer and claims he has run “more small boat races than anyone in the area and maybe the whole world.”

As of late May no fee entries had been established for the MacBugly. “We may even pay entries to enter,” he says, “but $20 seems like a reasonable fee.”

Suffice it to say that Bugly/Potter, 62, marches to his own drummer.

“The MacBugly is taking place at the Chesapeake’s light-air-season solstice [because] the Chesapeake is about light air just as surely as San Francisco Bay and the Gorge are about heavy air,” he explains. “In light air venues with tricky currents it’s tough to find sailors better than those who hail from Mid-Atlantic states. So, the MacBugly will be held in August. Besides, we actually like racing in light air and tricky currents. We get a lot of practice and we’re very good at it.”

He is described as a “privileged child of the ’60s.” Raised in Manhasset, he began sailing on Long Island Sound in the 1950s. His father, Jack Potter, owned the Potter Instrument Company and had a series of large yachts, all named Touche or Equation. His first Bermuda race, at the age of 14, was in his father’s Tripp-designed 48-footer, which won its class.

“The silver spoon I was born with was yanked from my mouth unceremoniously and without warning many years ago when my father’s business went bust, but I still act like it never happened,” he says.

After graduating from the University of Arizona, he fell in with the likes of Ted Turner’s merry yachting crowd and raced extensively on Turner’s American Eagle and Tenacious and in other yachts, such as Al Van Metre’s Running Tide. (Thirty years ago, before his paunch and graying baldness, he must have cut a handsome figure.)

“I came to Annapolis in the fall of ’76 and more or less stayed,” he recounts. “The attractions for me were lots of good looking women, lots of sailboats, and lots of saloons within a short stroll of each other. I eventually married, was divorced, got custody of two daughters, and stopped ocean racing to work at home on computer software projects.”

He became Alden Bugly in the mid-’80s, a name hatched during an episode among two local yacht brokers who liked to mix sailing and drinking. One slurred to the other: “You’re all bald ‘n’ ugly,” but it came out, “You’re Alden Bugly.”

Potter is a fixture at Severn Sailing, where he continues to run races with an imperial air of indifference. When I observed him at the Vanguard 15 Nationals in early May he was not turned out like a race committee big wig. He had a stubble of white whiskers and his balding crewcut looked as if it had been run through with an egg beater.

He had a decidedly unkempt look in baggy, wrinkled khaki trousers and a nondescript brown, long-sleeved shirt — the same outfit he was wearing at Davis’s Pub a couple days earlier. His feet were clad in leather sandals and his nose was daubed in sun block. On his head was a SpinSheet Magazine sailing cap with a soft dome, but that was soon corrected when he confiscated the “foam dome” hat of the regatta winner.

Bugly would not be caught dead wearing a Mount Gay regatta cap, even if it was given to him. (He does not buy hats.) “I prefer the stiff, high-domed truck drivers’ hats with the ’70s look, even if my new cap sports a North Sails logo. Foam dome hats are hot.”

He insisted that while engaged in his official Alden Bugly role his face not be photographed because Bugly is a shy fellow even if Potter is not. It gets confusing but I went along with his demands although I did sneak a shot of a smiling John Potter.

That evening, back at my laptop, I pondered my notes in an effort to figure out what I was going to say in words.

Exploring the MacBugly Web site, a link led me to his other Web site, www.savvyoutlook.com, which would, I hoped, define the elusive Bugly character or result in utter confusion. (It did both.)

My favorite link in this quixotic site is the “Flipper Man” segment in which he is depicted penning a farewell note at an oceanfront beach house before strolling into the surf wearing oversized flippers and disappearing. An ex-girlfriend videotaped the amusing Flipper Man, whose bit on the beach was inspired by J. D. Salinger’s short story, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.”

This may or may not help reveal the Bugly character, but at least it’s a start.