Transition Rig

The concept

Recent additions to this website:

Canoe version - photos

Latest project - automatic rig

Shape changes in use - a short video


Early windsurfing version of the Transition Rig, 1992


The idea for the Transition Rig came 30 years ago, and I now have successful prototypes for smaller craft such as windsurfers, kayaks, canoes, and dinghies. I believe that this simple-to-use sailing rig that can be folded away when not required has a worthwhile place amongst the many other types of sailing rigs that are around today. I feel confident that it will have an increasing part to play in the future. While other people are focusing on how best to obtain a blistering performance, with wing-sails and hydrofoils currently in the spotlight, at the same time there are many of us who sail for pleasure and appreciate a sail and mast combination that is easy and practical to use. Think of an umbrella: we carry it around folded until it rains, and then open it in a few seconds to give us shelter. When the rain stops, we fold it away again so that it doesn't get in the way. The Transition Rig follows a similar logic - when you need a sail you can raise it quickly and gain power from the wind. When the voyage is over, or if a storm strikes while you are at sea, you can quickly fold the rig away.

When you have a mast that is jointed to enable raising and lowering, other things become possible. You now have a variable-geometry rig with the potential to change its shape in use and according to conditions. No doubt you have watched birds soaring in thermals and along hillsides facing the wind and marvelled at the way they continuously adjust the shape of their wings in gusts and lulls. The Transition Rig gives the same possibilities for shape-changing in use, but I have discovered that this is a much harder goal to achieve than the folding. I have spent a lot of time experimenting with the variable-geometry aspect, but there is still a long way to go with that. In the meantime, I suggest that the ability to fold the rig is a significant benefit on its own, and the bonus of variable geometry can be worked on over a longer time scale. Still, I shall be happy to record my experience with this aspect so far.

This is a good time for me to open up the idea to any of you who might be interested in taking it further, and for that reason I shall be summarising my experience on the following pages. I haven't optimised the design yet - there is plenty of room for improvement - but I have through trial and error narrowed down to a range of successful possibilities. I shall be happy to help you avoid some of the pitfalls that I have encountered so that you can make more rapid progress.

So if you are someone like me who likes making things in the shed, or students looking for projects in the realm of sail and rig design, or entrepreneurs looking for an exciting concept in the water-sports arena, I hope you will find this website helpful. If you are a designer who can see ways of improving the rig or its appearance, let's have a go at that. If you are an engineer who understands how to program electric motors and use limit switches and proximity switches, that would be particularly helpful at this time since I am in the process of making an automated version of the Transition Rig.

As the days and weeks go by, I shall be adding items to this website, so please revisit from time to time. As a starting point, I have summarised the concept and started to record the versions I have made so far, together with a proposal to use Transition Rigs on larger ships. I have begun to add a few short videos to illustrate the ideas. The current focus is on making an automated version of the rig.

My name is Richard Dryden, and you can contact me by e-mail at


The concept Versions

 site last updated: 21/05/16

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