Breaking Even A Win At Inaugural Bago Big Bet

Breaking Even A Win At Inaugural Bago Big Bet

If this weekend’s inaugural Bago Big Bet event in Oshkosh, Wis., proved one thing, it is simply this: Gambling is inherently risky. Bets can be hedged, but not guaranteed.

So how did some 16 boatfuls of “gamblers” fare at the Mercury Racing-presented event? They broke even.

For South Florida’s Greg Harris and Yvonne Aleman, the Bago Big Bet was their first event in their DCB Performance Marine M37R Widebody catamaran. Photos by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix

As of Thursday afternoon, the odds were long against the poker-run portion of the weekend even happening. While much of the country has baked this week, this part of Wisconsin has seen rain, wind and constant cloud cover—all of which would be fine weather for a late-fall Green Bay Packers game but not-so-fine for an early summer poker run.

The forecast—and at least one nasty case of COVID—was grim enough to whittle the fleet from its original 26-boat mix of V-bottom sportboats and catamarans to the aforementioned 16 entries.

With Thursday’s outdoor meet-and-greet lunch at Sometimes at Pioneer Island canceled by constant, wind-driven drizzle, local organizer Shannon Higgins and her small team had a decision to make. Friday’s weather forecast had rain holding off until the early afternoon. Saturday’s forecast called for wet weather all day. So Higgins and company moved the poker-run portion of the event, originally slated for today, to Friday.

The event didn’t lack for V-bottom sportboats such as this Baja crewed by Jack Luchini and Olivia Deuster.

Judging by the steady rain that’s been falling since at least 4 a.m., her bet paid off.

“Hey, at least we got to do some fun boating today,” said Greg Harris, who with his girlfriend Yvonne Aleman hauled their new DCB Performance Marine M37R catamaran called Mad Props all the way from South Florida to make the event. “We had a great time running on Lake Winneconne and Lake Winnebago.

Faces of the 2024 Bago Big Bet.

“The boat ran great—we love it,” he added, a big grin creasing his face. “We had a lot of fun.”

As did their special guest, DCB vice-president of production Johnny Bauer

“It was great being back on Lake Winnebago,” said Bauer, a former longtime employee at Mercury Racing and Mercury Marine in nearby Fond du Lac, during last night’s party at the Fox River Brewery. “And it was especially nice watching Yvonne and Greg enjoy their new boat.”

Fellow DCB M37R catamaran Cowboy & Indian joined Mad Props for yeseterday’s stormy trip form the Fond du Lac Yacht Club to Pioneer Marina.

Like the rest of the participants including Florida Powerboat Club owners Stu and Jackie Jones, Harris and Aleman arrived at the Fond du Lac Yacht Club for lunch a little after 1 p.m. But while everyone ate, a series of storm-fronts began moving into the area with hard rain and gusty winds.

Breaks in the weather between fronts offered chances for escape. So the participants who reached the lunch stop had bets of their own to make.

Would the weather-windows they chose stay open long enough for them to reach Pioneer Marina across the lake and get their boats out of the water?

Though everyone made it safely to the marina, some bets paid off better than others.

The fleet at the first Bago Big Bet included a variety of V-bottoms and catamarans.

“That may have been the worst rain I’ve ever been in on the water,” said a smiling Shane Maheiu as he and his son, Blake, prepped their 28-foot Skater catamaran for Sunday’s long haul back to Upstate New York. “It poured out there.”

Added his son, “I could barely see the water ahead.”

Aleman and Harris, as well as fellow DCB M37R catamaran co-owner Kiran Pinisetti and his crew, left roughly 15 minutes after the Maheiu boys.

At first, their wager looked equally dismal. The skies opened and they bumped along at 40 to 50 mph. But the rain relented, and though both boats had to stop midway across the lake to wait out a squall, they easily skipped over the 1- to 2-foot wind-blown chop at speeds often above 70 mph on final leg to Pioneer Marina.

The morning waters of Lake Winneconne were the calmest of the day as event backers Adam and Kristina Hansen of Hansen’s Heavy Hauling found in their immaculate 35-foot Formula sportboat.

The conditions were even tame enough for the crews on each cat to snag a card from a floating card-stop.

“Every time I get in this boat, I am amazed by it,” Pinisetti told one of crew members. “It’s a beast. I could have gone faster, but there was no need.”

But the smartest bet of the day—make that the entire weekend—was made my Kelly O’Hara, who co-owns the 37-footer with Pinisetti. O’Hara, who is still recovering from back surgery less than two weeks ago, opted to return from the yacht club by car with Higgins.

Moving the poker run to Friday was a wise move by Higgins and her crew.

Today is an “activity day” of sorts, which sounds a little scary, ahead of tonight’s event-closing “white party” and poker-hand play at The Howard, a historic venue in Oshkosh. But regardless of who has the best five cards, the entire group has already broken even against some pretty heavy odds at the first Bago Big Bet.

And as any sane gambler can tell you, breaking even is a win.

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