LEIDSCHENDAM – These days, new boats are launched, wrapped in turgid language. They are, invariably, “exciting,” “thrilling,” and “Jaw-dropping.” Right now, it’s hard to imagine a boat more worthy of praise like that than the itsy-bitsy plywood sailboat that the 92-year-old Kolibri Jachtbouw yard is building, just south of Amsterdam.

The 19ft. ClassMini 5.80 is an initiative of Australian sailor and adventurer Don McIntyre, 65. He is putting together a one-design, ocean-racing mini-class. He is already working on  a transatlantic race in 2021. And on a Mini Globe Race in stages around the world in stages in 2022.

Transatlantic? Around the world? In a 19ft plywood sailboat?

The 5.80 designer is Poland’s Janusz Maderski, a specialist in small ocean-going craft. Professional yards everywhere – such as the Kolibri Jachtwerf in the Netherlands – are encouraged to join in.

In the Netherlands, Kolibri has built literally thousands of small wooden daysailers. Eventually, construction drawings will become available for individuals.

The Australia-based ClassMini 5.80 Association and Don McIntyre aim to promote a one-design boat that is safe, simple, fun to sail and easy to build. It will also put ocean sailing back in human hands, far removed from the pricey, high-tech gizmos that populate modern racing yachts.

Kolibri Jachtwerf excels n small wooden sailboats, like this 6.5m Kolibri

“I like small boats!” says McIntyre. “I used to draw ocean-going mini cruisers as a teenager, inspired by the Hunter 19ft Willing Griffin sailing the OSTAR in 1972 and, later, reading reports of the first Plywood Muscadet Mini Transat yachts in 1977.

“Thirty years later, with 3 others, I sailed 4,000 miles across the Pacific in an open 25ft whale boat, with basically nothing! No toilet paper, no charts, only 2 weeks of water and virtually no food to recreate the epic voyage of survival of William Bligh and 18 of his men following the Mutiny on the Bounty.

“The simplicity of a simple wooden boat: ropes, nails and sails, a knife and a compass. Adventure at its best!”

Measuring 5.80 x 2.23m and a draft of 1.4m, the McIntyre ClassMini 5.80 comes with its own road trailer. With keel, rudder and spars removed, everything fits in a 20ft container. The boat will be suited for solo or 2-handed trans-ocean voyages. Full construction plans cost €300 (see The main structure can be built by 1 or 2 people with little experience and basic tools.