Robert Doe compiled the history of Marcon boats published by the Trident Owners Association in 2009 after interviewing both Eric White and Alan Hill. The link to the Trident website is http://trident24.com/links/
The article is reproduced here with kind permission of Robert Doe.
Alan Hill – Designer of the Trident 24 and Tomahawk 25
When Eric White first asked the young Alan Hill – then in his early twenties – to design him a 24-footer he could mould in GRP, he was not given a contract for the work. Nor was there even a detailed brief. And Alan seems never to have been daunted by the fact he had not designed a GRP boat before – very few yacht designers had in the late fifties.
Enthusiasm for a fresh challenges has been evident throughout Alan’s working life and in the wide variety of the boats he has designed – more than 120 in all including motorboats, trawlers and ferro-concrete yachts.. That passion for boats was first sparked when, growing up in Battersea in the thirties and forties, Alan watched model yachts sailing on the Clapham Common pond.
In 1948, fresh out of school and aged 14, Alan joined Thornycroft’s boatyard at Platt’s Eyot Island on the Thames near Hampton on a seven-year apprenticeship building launches. Later he was also to work for a time at Thornycroft’s shipyard at Woolston, Southampton. Coincidentally this was adjacent to where, years later, Marcon would eventually build Tridents and Tomahawks amongst several of Alan’s larger designs.
His interest in sailing boats was fed by the drawings of a yacht he found in a drawer at Thornycroft. And on his way home he often watched the model yachts raced on Rick Pond, the lake at Hampton Court. This led him to join a model yacht club and by the1950s he was drawing and building model racing yachts – something he still does to this day. National Service in Coastal Command at Felixstowe and Calshot also brought him into contact with the sea and yachts. At Calshot he sailed Hamble Stars and found himself in demand as crew at Cowes.
Following his National Service, Jack Thornycroft asked Alan to go and run the company’s Singapore yard. Instead, in 1957 Alan found himself a job in Robert Clark’s design office in Albemarle Street in Central London – largely on the strength of his model yacht drawings.
Clark was one of the leading UK yacht designers of the day. He designed Gypsy Moth III in which Francis Chichester (later Sir Francis) won the first single-handed trans-Atlantic race (OSTAR) in 1960. Clark was also to draw the plans for British Steel, the 59 foot ketch in which Chay Blyth circumnavigated westabout (the “wrong way”) in the early seventies. And one of the designs Alan worked on in Clark’s office was Mary Deare, the yacht of the novelist Hammond Innes.
In 1958, he first met Eric White in Cubitt’s Yard on the Thames at Chiswick.
Eric sailed on the East Coast but he was a Londoner so laid up his Yachting World 5-Tonner Tarmin at Cubitt’s Yard over the winter. The fact that Tarmin was also a Clark design led to the chance conversation between them that gave rise to the Trident commission. Alan says no actual contract was signed and he wasn’t given much of a brief. “Eric just said about 24 foot. Not too heavy.”
It says something about the rapport that must have been created between Eric and Alan, as well as Alan’s enthusiasm and confidence in his design ability, that on such a slim basis he set about drawing the first ever GRP sailing cruiser he had ever designed.
“I’d always wanted to design racing yachts along the lines of the model racing boats I built,” Alan recalls. So it is ironic that most of his designs are cruising boats, and even motor boats and trawlers. And he always resisted the temptation to design racers for cruising: “A cruising yacht should not emulate a racing boat.” he says.
“People wondered what this GRP was…it was like a bombshell hitting the boat industry…” Alan recalls. Working for Thornycroft, Clark and Buchanan gave Alan a sound all-round training and ability. But he readily admits that initially it was Eric who had the experience of GRP from building what Alan describes as “lovely little dinghies”. It was Eric who advised on lay-up weights – the layers of glass cloth and resin – used in various sections of the hull. And this fruitful partnership was to last way beyond the Trident and Alan became the principal designer for the expanding Marcon boat company. “We worked closely together. We were telepathic. Eric’s input always improved the design.” Alan says.
Alan Hill’s yacht designs for other builders include the 24-foot Vivacity, the Duellist 32, the Coaster 33, the Biscay 36, the 41 and 46 foot ferro Valients and the Wakering 33. Alan also designed many one-offs including sailing-cartoonist Mike Peyton’s 8-berth Touchstone, an innovatory ferrocement design with twin lifting daggerboards which Peyton built in his back garden. Though 38 foot long, with its boards up it draws no more than a bilge-keeled Trident. Writing in Practical Boat Owner in 1982 about the ideas incorporated into Touchstone, Mike Peyton recognised the passion her designer brought to his work: “Alan Hill is an enthusiast if ever there was one.”
Eric White – Builder of the Trident 24 and Tomahawk 25
The Trident as we know it today owes its existence to one remarkable man: its original builder Eric White. And the Trident’s success laid the foundation for the Marine Construction boat company and the whole fleet of larger Marcon designs which followed, including the Tomahawk 25.
Eric’s practical engineering skills were honed through wartime service in the Fleet Air Arm. He grew up in London but by 1944 he was a Petty Officer airframe fitter aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable when her aircraft attacked the German pocket battleship
Tirpitzin Norway’s arctic Kaafjord.
After the war, Eric got a job as a lorry driver. He was one of four brothers whose passion was motorcycle racing. But when one of his brothers was killed, Eric gave it up and turned instead to sailing. He later bought Tarmin, a Yachting World 5-tonner, designed by Robert Clark who also also designed Sir Francis Chichester’s Gipsy Moth III, the boat in which Chichester won the single-handed trans-Atlantic race of 1960. Tarminwas later to go on to set records for three single-handed circumnavigations of the World.
Eric also had a tatty old wooden tender and badly needed a new one. So he bought a book about fibreglass, rounded off the corners of his old dinghy to make a mould, and created a new GRP tender. Other yachtsmen at Burnham said, ‘That’s nice, can you make one for me?’. And soon he was launched into a career as a part-time boatbuilder. He was still driving his lorry but he soon began to think about building a cruising boat in GRP, a novelty at that time.
Still living in London, Eric laid Tarmin up at Cubitt’s Dock, Chiswick. And it was in this yard one day that a fateful meeting took place. A young man approached him and said, “My boss designed your boat.” Eric replied: “Do you fancy designing a boat for me?” That young man was Alan Hill who then worked for Robert Clark.
To finance the mould, Eric had to sell Tarmin. The new owner lived in Mallorca and Eric delivered the boat there himself through the french canals during his annual holiday.
Initially Trident hulls were moulded at a boatyard at Isleworth on the Thames. The hulls were then sent to Jim Nuttall of Brensall Boats, Highbridge, Somerset to have wooden decks completed (though Trident No 1 was completed at Wyatts Boatyard in West Mersea in Essex).
Trident No 1 was an instant success when she was launched in 1960: “On our first trial we won the Burnham to West Mersea Race,” says Alan Hill . But disaster lurked just round the corner.
After about 10 hulls the whole Trident project was nearly wrecked by a blaze at the Isleworth yard. Everything was destroyed including the moulds. Eric contemplated emigration but then found a derelict yard at Woolston (Southampton). He got back the last hull sent to Brensall Boats and used it to create a new mould. They were soon back in business and developed a deck moulding as well.
About 275 Tridents were moulded, two thirds of which were sold for home-completion. In this way Eric pioneered the kit-boat approach which put cruising under sail within reach of the ordinary family. He even delivered hulls to customers’ gardens with a special trailer which enabled them to be offloaded and reloaded when completed and ready for launching.
In 1967 Marine Construction or Marcon as Eric’s company was known, launched the 27-foot Cutlass. Alan Hill’s successful Sabre 27 was launched in 1968 followed by the Halberdier 36, Claymore 32, Tomahawk 25, Javelin 30 and Striker 22. Marcon also moulded Peter Brett’s Rival yachts.
In 1970 Eric sold 80 per cent of the Marcon company to the Land and General Development investment company. Eric continued as managing director but eventually stepped down in 1976. Afterwards, Marcon seemed to lose impetus. And in a worsening economic climate, the company went bust in 1979.
At the sell-off auction Eric White bought the Marcon moulds he wanted, including those of the Trident and sold the mouldings through Seabourne Marine operating from Marcon’s old Willments Shipyard on the River Itchen. Eric eventually retired at 65 and built himself a Nicholson 45, in which he cruised the Mediterranean and Black Sea for 5 years.
Alan Hill – Designer of the Trident 24 and Tomahawk 25
Tarmin – Three times around the world
|Founded by pioneering fiberglass boat builder Eric White. After a fire destroyed an earlier factory, White found a run down yard at Woolston (Southampton) where he continued building the hugely successful TRIDENT 24. White sold a majority of the company in 1970 and left the company in 1976. Marcon, as it was known for short, went out of business in 1979.|
|(Dates indicate when a boat was first built by ANY Builder)|
|English / Metric|
|TRIDENT 24||24.00′ / 7.32m||1960|
|CUTLASS 27 (UK)||27.00′ / 8.23m||1967|
|MOODY 36 HALBERDIER||36.00′ / 10.97m||1967|
|CLAYMORE 30||30.00′ / 9.14m||1968|
|RIVAL 31||31.00′ / 9.45m||1969|
|SABRE 27||27.00′ / 8.23m||1969|
|TOMAHAWK 25||25.33′ / 7.72m||1970|
|MOODY 36 CAVALIER||36.00′ / 10.97m||1970|
|RIVAL 32||31.83′ / 9.70m||1971|
|JAVELIN 30 (PARKER)||30.50′ / 9.30m||1971|
|RIVAL 34||34.00′ / 10.36m||1972|
|RIVAL 41||40.58′ / 12.37m||1973|
|RIVAL 41 CC||40.58′ / 12.37m||1973|
|NICHOLSON 39||39.00′ / 11.89m||1975|
|RIVAL 38||37.58′ / 11.45m||1977|
|STRIKER 22||21.83′ / 6.65m||1978|
Formation of the Tomahawk Owners Association
Production of the Tomahawk began in 1970 and was first shown at the 1971 London Boat Show . Approx 290 boats were built in the following 10 years.
The original Tomahawk 25 was built by Marcon Marine,a small fast cruising yacht with five berths in a semi open plan layout. The Trident 24, Sabre 27, Rival 32, Halberdier 36 the Marcon 24 and the Marcon 34.were all from the same stable.
The Tomahawk Owners Association attempts to provide :
A Secure website section providing the opportunity to contact other members, a quarterly Bulletin with members articles, projects and useful advice, members forum, brokerage, boat bits for sale/wanted and rallies. The Tomahawk specification, club events, brokerage and for sale items can be found at the above links but you will need to be a member to add information and view certain pages.