If you’re in the yacht-building community, chances are you’ll be familiar with the name ‘von der Linden’. In this profile, General Manager Helge von der Linden tells us how his family’s business went from a small German chandlery to European Distributor of WEST SYSTEM® epoxy, with a little help from an English boatbuilding kit.
In the 1970s, my parents Marga and Herbert von der Linden ran a little chandlery in our hometown of Wesel, north-west Germany. Back then, I’m sure they never would have guessed how successful the business would go on to be.
The business really started to take off in 1978. George Whisstock – owner of Suffolk-based Whisstocks Boatyard – appealed for European agents to sell his new ‘Naja’ kit boat and my parents got in touch. George had spent months studying wood-epoxy construction in the USA and had visited the Gougeon Brothers. He returned to the UK convinced that WEST SYSTEM epoxy was the future of wooden boatbuilding. To capitalise on this, he commissioned French naval architect Sylvestre Langevin to design Naja – a 30ft WEST SYSTEM plywood kit boat.
The Naja DIY kit was a very well thought-out kit, even by today’s standards. It came complete with plywood planks, frames and bulkheads all cut to shape – even with the bevels on the sides – plus step-by-step instructions written by George.
We had great success selling the kit, before a twist of fate really changed the course of von der Linden history: the Gougeon Brothers needed to look for new European distributors for WEST SYSTEM epoxy. They decided to ask all Naja agents throughout Europe to take on the role – and so the transformation of our little chandlery to major distributor was complete.
We remained an agency for the Whisstocks Boatyard for a couple of years, until the yard sadly closed for business. As we were no longer selling Naja kits, we turned our attention fully to epoxy resin distribution.
I think it’s easy to see why George Whisstock was a WEST SYSTEM epoxy convert. For a start, in the late 1970s there was no other made-for-purpose marine epoxy. Yes, there were some standard industrial epoxies being used in naval ships, but they weren’t pleasant to work with; they were difficult to handle and had a strong odour. WEST SYSTEM products offered a complete system, were easy to use, less toxic and were made specifically for boatbuilding.
“There’s nothing we don’t know about WEST SYSTEM epoxy!”
What’s more, WEST SYSTEM epoxy has always been much better documented than any other epoxy systems and that is down to the Gougeon Brothers. Interestingly, when the new edition of ‘The Gougeon Brothers on Boat Construction’ came out, my parents decided they wanted to publish it in German – but the publishers didn’t want to do it. So I teamed up with Fritz Hartz, the General Manager of the German Boatbuilders’ Association and we translated half the book each.
After doing that, there’s nothing I don’t know about WEST SYSTEM epoxy!
Making epoxy a family affair
38 years on, von der Linden is now the oldest European WEST SYSTEM epoxy distributor along with licensed European manufacturer Wessex Resins & Adhesives. We’re still very much a family affair: my parents have retired but are still part-owners. My sister Inge and I share general manager duties, while Inge’s husband and my other sister Ragnhild are also part of the team.
Today, we are a one-stop resource for world-renowned marine paint and epoxies. We only stock world-renowned brands that have demonstrated their superior quality in tough practical tests. We even perform our own in-house trials. That way, we can be sure we’re offering the best solution for every situation.
For more information about von der Linden, its services and its products, visit www.vonderlinden.de