This Hispanic Heritage Month, US Sailing spoke with Mac Agnese, a sailor in the 49er class. Agnese is Argentinian, but grew up sailing mainly in the US, and has been sailing for most of his life. His sailing career is full of successes – Agnese won his first world championship in the Melges 24 class at age 11, and went on to win the Snipe World Championship and grab silver at the 29er World Championship. Besides being a member of the US Sailing Team, Agnese is also an athlete on the US SailGP team.
US Sailing is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 15 to October 15. The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988.
Mikayla Pantano (she/her): Tell me about yourself. How did you get involved with sailing?
Mac Agnese: I was born in Washington, DC. I lived there for 3 years and moved to Fort Lauderdale. My dad is from Argentina and my mom is from the US. When I was 5 years old, we moved to Argentina, which is where I started sailing. From when I was 8 to now, I’ve been in South Florida. So that’s where my sailing really got going – opti sailing like most people, then I got into faster boats after that.
MP: Do you have a favorite achievement or accomplishment or favorite sailing memory?
MA: One of the cool ones most recently was winning Sail GP. Last year in San Tropez in September, about a year ago exactly, that we won the US Sail GP team’s first event. Being up on the podium spraying champagne, after winning an event, is always an awesome feeling. Competing at a world championship for your country is always a great one. Hopefully, there are many more good memories to be made in the future!
MP: What’s on the horizon for you and sailing? What are you looking forward to? What are you dreaming of?
MA: Our Olympic trials are in January, in Miami. Our big goal is to win that event and earn selection to the Olympics. I have no set limits, there’s so much to do in our sport. There’s the ocean race which I would love to do at some point. That said, there’s so many different avenues to explore, and I hope I get an opportunity to at least get a taste of a lot of them.
MP: This article is going to be in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. I’d love to hear you know about your experiences, about your Hispanic heritage.
MA: I first tried sailing in Argentina on a massive river that runs through Argentina and Brazil. And my dad was a sailor, sailing has always been kind of a part of my Argentine side of the family’s life. When we left Argentina, we didn’t really know what the future held in terms of sailing. I remember I was also a big soccer player in Argentina, I loved soccer. I think that was my first love and sport. Which is a natural thing as an Argentine kid growing up. But when we moved to the US, I remember only caring about sailing. The cool thing about it now is that I’m doing international regattas in the opti class. That’s kind of where my reconnection happened with my Argentine friends, now we’re all at international events together.
A good friend of mine moved to Miami, from Argentina as well. The two of us ended up being on the same team in Miami, and when we would travel, we were the two Hispanic kids on the US Team. So that was a cool experience, hanging out with all the South and Central American teams. Just always a fun experience.
MP: Do you have any favorite memories, Argentine traditions, family experiences, holidays your favorite thing about being Argentinian?
Mac Agnese: My favorite Argentine tradition is a asado, which is the barbecue. My dad built an Argentine style grill and in his backyard in Fort Lauderdale, and mate, of course. Which is the tea that you drink. It’s a very social kind of thing, you pass it around. Those are a couple of my favorite traditions.
MP: Was there still a big Argentinian influence in your life back in Florida?
MA: I mean other than what we did at home, not huge. When you’re in sailing circles, there’s not a lot of Hispanic influence in general. One big influence on my sailing career is Lucas Calabrese. He won a bronze medal in Olympics for Argentina, and he was an Opti world champion for Argentina. I’ve been always surrounded in sailing somehow. But at home? My dad definitely keeps our heritage alive in a lot of different ways: music, food and drinks.
MP: Do you think your Argentinian identity has impacted your involvement in sailing?
MA: I wouldn’t say I personally ever felt isolated in any way. But it’s always something that I’ve been very proud of. Argentina has a rich, rich culture of sailing, so I’ve always been lucky to have a lot of role models from Argentina and from the US that have really shaped my career so far.
MP: Why do you feel it’s important to share your identity? And the stories of identity in relation to sailing?
MA: It’s the first time that somebody’s asked me to do something like this. This is a cool opportunity. I don’t necessarily look any different to anybody in the US. I look like a white American. I don’t look Hispanic necessarily. It’s never something I’ve really been asked about. But in the background, it’s always there. I think it’s important to acknowledge your heritage. I represent the US in sailing, but I also rep Argentina whenever I can. I always love talking about Argentina, a country I love.