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Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem!

How To Make Lazy Jacks Easy To Use

Published on April 22, 2016 ; last updated on March 20, 2023 by Carolyn Shearlock

diy lazy jack for sailboat

Lazy jacks are a great way to control your mainsail as it comes down, but they can also be a real frustration when raising it. The sail battens catch on the lazy jacks and you have to raise the sail a few inches at a time and time the ups perfectly as the lazy jack flips out of the way so the batten doesn’t catch.

There’s usually a bit of “discussion” between the person raising the sail and the one at the helm along the lines of “would you PLEASE hold the boat directly into the wind so I can get this sail up?” We won’t repeat what the person at the helm may be saying. For that reason, lots of people hate lazy jacks.

And I know a number of people who don’t want a stack pack system because it combines a sail cover and lazy jacks into one package.

A quick bit of rigging, however, will make lazy jacks simple to use when raising the main. The secret is being able to move the lazy jacks out of the way when raising the sail (and eliminate the chafe on the sail when sailing) but still have them easily available when you drop the main.

It’s easier to show in pictures, so here goes.

Using Improved Lazy Jacks

Our system – I’ve drawn the lines and blocks in as they didn’t show up well.

Diagram of easy-to-use lazy jack systems.

To raise the main, you release each lazy jack where it’s cleated on the mast, pull the two lines that are attached to the boom forward, and hook them on the reef hooks or the cleats that the lazy jacks are on. Then tighten up the lazy jack lines. The lazy jacks now form a reverse “L” going along the boom and up the mast.

Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem!

Now, with the lazy jacks out of the way, you can easily raise the main.

Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem!

While sailing, we leave the lazy jacks hooked on the mast cleats so they don’t chafe on the main.

Then, when it’s time to take the main down, we unhook the lazy jacks and tighten them up to catch the main.

Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem!

In light air, we can even take the main down without turning into the wind as the lazy jacks nicely corral the sail as it comes down.

Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem!

It almost flakes itself – a little bit of adjustment and it’s ready for the sail cover.

Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem!

This system works equally well with a stack pack and/or lazy jacks that have three or four attachment points on the boom. We had a stack pack and lazy jacks with four boom (or stack pack, really) attachments on our previous boat (a Tayana 37 with a much larger main sail) and it worked perfectly.

Barefoot Gal had lazy jacks when we bought her, but they were terminated at the mast above the first spreaders. No line back down to deck level. Yes, it drove us nuts. But thanks to whoever had rigged Que Tal those many years ago, we knew exactly how to fix it.

How to Make Your Lazy Jacks Easy to Use

You’ll add a small block on the mast where the lazy jack control line will turn and come down to deck level. Then add a cleat on the mast where you’ll cleat off the lazy jack control line. Finally, you’ll add a longer control line to the lazy jacks.

There is no change to the part of the lazy jack system that is attached to the boom and which goes up to the block where the single control line attaches. The changes are all above that point.

You will need to go up the mast to the point where the lazy jacks attach with a bosun’s chair or another climbing device.

Total cost is $100 to $150 on most boats; time required is two to three hours once you have all the parts.


Whip or melt the ends of the new control lines.

Rig up your bosun’s chair or other mast-climbing apparatus and container for carrying tools and parts up the mast with you. Be sure to take the new control lines up with you!

Step One: Add Cleats on Mast

Install the cleats on the mast at a convenient height. You want them to be out of the way of any winches and easy to access.

Drawing of sheet metal screw and machine screw

When attaching fittings to the mast, always use machine screws (or rivets) and not sheet metal screws. Halyards and wiring run inside the mast and the pointed tips of sheet metal screws can damage either one. Drill a hole in the mast and tap it for machine screws. Dab Tef-Gel on the screw threads before putting the screw in to prevent the dissimilar metals seizing. As a side note, you should also use machine screws or rivets for fittings on the boom, so as not to snag the outhaul or reefing lines running inside.

Step Two: Pad Eyes and Blocks on the Mast

For this step, you’ll have to go up the mast, using a bosun’s chair or whatever mast-climbing device you prefer ( see ours ). Always use a backup, totally independent system to lessen the chances of injury or death. And be sure to read my tips for keeping people on deck safe while someone is working in the air.

There were already pad eyes on the mast where our lazy jacks were terminated, so all we had to do was shackle a small block (sized for the lazy jack line) on the pad eye.

If you don’t have pad eyes, you’ll have to attach them to the mast, either with machine screws or rivets, then shackle the blocks to the pad eyes.

Use seizing wire or a cable tie to secure the shackle pins so that the pins cannot back out with the motion of the boat.

Step Three: New Lazy Jack Control Line

Before coming back to deck level, pass one of the new control lines through each of the blocks you’ve just installed. You may want to tie the ends together on each side so that you don’t have one go up the mast and come out of the block while you’re coming down (ask me how I know about this possibility!). When tying them together, do it fairly near the ends of each line so you can untie them from the deck.

Once you’re back down on deck, tie one end of each line to the block at the top of the catch lines on each side of the boat, at the point labelled “block” in the drawing below. Cleat the other end on the cleat you just installed.

Does it drive you nuts to raise the main on a boat with lazy jacks? A couple hours and about $100 in parts can solve the problem! A fairly easy DIY project.

There is very little load on the various parts. We had some items in our spares locker and bought others from Amazon. Due to the relatively light loads, you don’t need heavy-duty or top-of-the-line parts.

  • Two small blocks (these are what we used; make sure yours will fit your control line)
  • Two shackles to hold the blocks to the pad eyes (size to fit your other hardware)
  • Two pad eyes (this 10-pack is a great deal, but don’t use the pointy screws that come with them; buy 4mm stainless machine screws at a hardware or home improvement store)
  • Machine screws or rivets for pad eyes
  • Seizing wire or cable ties to secure shackle pin
  • Two small cleats and machine screws for attaching
  • New control line for lazy jacks — the easiest way to measure the length is to go from the aft attachment point of the lazy jacks on the boom to the gooseneck, plus twice the distance from the gooseneck to the pad eye on the mast. This will give you enough line to cleat. You need two pieces this long. Be sure to choose line that is UV-resistant; we like using Sta-Set.
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Reader Interactions

April 22, 2016 at 8:55 am

How do you know exactly what we say to each other when raising the main?! Great tips, we will have to do this!

Patty Thompson says

April 22, 2016 at 2:27 pm

Carolyn I really do love your advice!! Our boat has lazy jacks and we were never quite sure how to take full advantage of it and yes it has been a pain!! Now I can’t wait to do this and try it out! Thank you

Ted Broom says

April 22, 2016 at 10:15 am

We made our own maany years ago and that’s how I made them. Figured Relinda didn’t need the hassle of fighting the sail up. She pulls the legs forward to catch them at the gooseneck and hoists. No problems


April 23, 2016 at 2:40 pm

We’ve always done this in our home-made set up because I had already made a regular sailcover and didn’t want to put slots in it for the lazy jack, so we pull the lazy jack forward before covering and that way it is out of the way for raising the sail on next trip.

Rodney L Foushee says

April 26, 2016 at 8:41 am

Having difficulty with lazy jacks is not a function of the jacks. It is a self-induced problem caused by raising/lowering sails in the wrong order. First up and last down is the head sail. Last up / first down is the main. After making way with the head sail, release the main sheet which allows the main on the boom to wind vane into the apparent wind. Leave the main sheet released. Helmsman pilots with the head sail; crew raises main with no batten snagging because the main system (boom, sail, jacks) is aligned with the wind. After the main halyard is cleated, helmsman trims the main. Same procedure in reverse order for lowering sails. Works in any breeze. Try it.

Keith & Nicki, s/v Sionna says

December 1, 2017 at 6:33 am

Rodney, this is great theory, but in many boats – ours included – it simply doesn’t work. Largely this is because with any breeze at all the mainsail is a living thing, luffing and moving randomly as soon as you begin to hoist. Carolyn’s advice is Stirling, and exactly what our sail maker recommended, with the added benefit of reducing chafe on our main from having the lazy jacks rub against the sail while under way.

December 1, 2017 at 11:39 am

There is no “theory” with my recommendation – the main sail on your boat, my boat, every boat is subject to the same laws of physics, and, thus, is nothing more than a flag aligned with the wind until the main sheet is tightened. You are correct, the main will move about just like a flag, but what you are missing is that it carries the boom and everything attached to the boom, including the lazy jacks, in alignment along with it.. Head sail first, then the main, it is just too easy.

I’m not questioning the wisdom of the jack system offered here. I’m just offering a practical efficient way of raising and lowering sails without fighting the wind. Simply a tip for the toolbox; don’t like, don’t use it.

Carolyn Shearlock says

December 1, 2017 at 11:44 am

I get what you are saying, but as the sail is raised the battens do not stay in alignment with the boom nor do the lazyjacks. They move independently and the battens WILL snag on the lazyjacks.as the sail is raised.

Michael says

January 1, 2022 at 8:22 pm

Depend on the boat and the sail. The size of the boom and the mast width usually determine the space between the lazy jacks some larger boats have wider boom and mast making the space between the lazy jacks much wider. Some sails are full length battens some have partial Battens. This makes a different in stiffness of the sail and the ends getting hung up or not. Sail shape also makes a difference. I like having the same setup as shown because it allows me to adjust The position of the block that supports the lower lines on the boom. But what works on one boat may or may not be best for all.

Marc Kornutik says

December 1, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Please allow that your system will not work if lazy jacks are in position. But I’m still confused because even if none are used or they are pulled out of the way…, once you are sailing after the headsail is unfurled the main is going to fill and billow out to leeward putting a lot of strain on the boltrope, mast track etc. Would be hard to raise and I think it would look quite the mess on deck. Glad it works for you is all I can say, but would love to see a video of you doing it.

Adam Norman says

April 26, 2016 at 9:26 am

Hi Carolyn Another advantage of your excellent system is that you can move the lazy jacks out of the way to the mast cleats when the boat is moored in the marina, thus cutting out chafe and wear on the sail cover if it gets windy while you are away from the boat. All the best from the UK! Adam

Margaret says

April 26, 2016 at 11:29 am

Going to do this!

April 28, 2016 at 7:43 am

We’ve had a similar system on our boat for 20 years. It’s great. No chafing, no interference with sail shape.

April 28, 2016 at 12:20 pm

A much cheaper and easier way I came up with is to just unfasten the aftmost attachment of the lazy jacks on both sides of the boom and tie shackles on the ends. Then since it is usually the aft lazy jacks that catch the battens, you can just unshackle them and walk them forward (I snap them together around the mast mounted jib halyard winch.) As long as you remember to walk them aft and reattach them before you lower the main (best to do them one at a time on the windward side of the main to avoid the pressure of the wind on the sail, and do the other on the next tack) it works fine. Granted this does not solve the problem of interference with the sail cover.

Patrick says

April 29, 2016 at 2:04 am

I have been doing this for a long time but with a little modification. If you have a long tail on the line that raises your lazy jack you can run it through a small cleat and back up to the first eye on the lazy jack. In this way to lower you just untie the tail and pull down the lazy jack. to raise you do the opposite. You do not end up with a lot of line to deal with as the line that comes down goes up at the same time. I hope this is understandable.

Jason Ellmers says

May 5, 2016 at 7:35 am

another thing that will help with snagging issues is to terminate the top most point in the middle of your spreaders and not on the mast at all.. It holds the top away from the centreline.

I have a stack pack with jacks which works like a dream.. Must admit also I don’t have to worry about the blocks the sail might rub on as I have soft spliced eyes at the ends of the rope for the other lines to pass through… Another tip.

Marc J. Kornutik says

April 13, 2017 at 9:23 am

Carolyn, excellent system for using just a sail cover. Must disagree though when using it with a stackpack. My lazy jacks also control the tension on the stackpack so it would flop to the sides rather than staying in place. Wouldn’t be realistic to sail that way if lazyjacks were brought fwd out of the way. It also allows the sail to drop out of it prior to hoisting (no sail ties) so really defeating it’s purpose. That said mine is rigged exactly as you described from the previous owner but I can’t get around the issue of the pack dropping down when those lines are loosened unfortunately.

April 13, 2017 at 9:32 am

We had a stackpack with lazy jacks on our previous boat. The sail falling out the pack as we raised the sail was far less of a problem than having the battens catch on the lines in our opinion. One trick is to release one side fully and the other only slightly — keep the boat not perfectly head to wind so that the sail all stays in the slightly released side (it will form a big belly as you partially release the lazy jacks) then bring the boat fully into the wind just as the person at the mast starts raising the sail and the sail starts spilling out. Takes a bit of coordination, but isn’t as hard as it sounds and keeps the sail contained pretty well as it’s being hoisted but also prevents the sail from hanging on the lazyjacks.

You may feel the opposite and prefer to keep the lines in their normal position. And yes, with a stackpack, we did re-tighten the lazyjack lines once the sail was up so that the stack pack laid next to the sail.

Jorge Bermudez says

April 25, 2017 at 8:56 pm

I only put up the lazy jacks to drop the main. Otherwise they are stored along the boom and mast

Bill Dixon says

April 26, 2017 at 8:55 am

We run the “downhaul ” leg aft to the sail cover. It becomes a 3rd lazy jack instead of just another line banging on the mast.

April 15, 2024 at 7:25 pm

Im imterested to learn more ; can you please explain how are you lines connected when sail is up, and how they lay once the sail cover on ? Trying to find the best way to run my lazy jacks and having them away from the mast is music to my ears. Thanks in advance!

Andrent says

June 29, 2017 at 6:45 pm

We are new boat owners struggling with the stack pack and lazy jacks! Could not figure out what to do, will definitely try your method. Thanks.

Vangelis Christodoulou says

December 29, 2017 at 6:07 am

When under way don’t you get the lines fixed on the boom pulling ie not letting the boom swing out?

December 29, 2017 at 7:10 am

No, they go to hooks that are quite close to the gooseneck, so there is virtually no difference in length.

Evangelos Christodoulou says

December 30, 2017 at 7:16 pm

Ok makes sense. Thanks

Anonymous says

March 24, 2018 at 7:00 pm

Drives me nuts to lower the main without them!

March 25, 2018 at 3:29 am

Mike Drury read this!

March 25, 2018 at 6:53 am

That’s what I have been saying all along 😎 We need to get this rigged up once the new boom bag is made.

March 25, 2018 at 8:51 am

Mike Drury new boom bag is up already on the old lazy jacks! Just needs some finishing off on Monday x

March 28, 2018 at 12:22 am

Des Bradley

Bill Murdoch says

December 6, 2019 at 9:44 am

There is a 1994 US patent on the idea. The drawings and description would be helpful in setting up the system. https://patents.google.com/patent/US5327842A/en

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DIY Lazy-jacks: Mainsail Tamers

Posted by Guy Stevens | Projects , Sails & Canvas

DIY Lazy-jacks: Mainsail Tamers

Take the pain out of the main, make your own lazy-jacks

Lazy-jack lines diagram

The easiest way for the shorthanded sailor to control the mainsail when reefing or stowing is a set of well-fitted lazy-jacks. Lazy-jacks are made from a set of fixed or movable lines led from the upper section of the mast to the boom, with lines on each side. They guide the sail onto the top of the boom when reefing or dousing it and keep it there to be tied up at the crew’s leisure.

When properly installed, a lazy-jack system adds to safety and sail control. Lazy-jacks function well with sails with no battens, half battens, or full battens. When installed and used correctly, they prevent chafe and tearing. A well-thought-out installation makes the lazy-jacks convenient to use, puts them out of the way when stowed, and does not require expensive alterations of sails or sail covers.

There are several varieties of lazy-jacks. The fixed systems permanently attach to the mast and are not stowed. These require altering the sail cover, may chafe the sail while sailing, and sail battens may catch in the lazy-jacks, making hoisting difficult. The better systems allow the lazy-jacks to be stowed and are deployed only when the sail is being doused or reefed.

Off-the-shelf and custom-built lazy-jack systems are available. Sail-loft versions start at $200; mid-range systems cost about $400; and high-end systems can cost $1,500 or more if professionally installed. A scratch-built system can be fabricated for less than the cheapest off-the-shelf systems, and has some advantages in the way it fits and functions with your boat.

Off-the-shelf lazy jack systems are not always better

The off-the-shelf lazy jack systems are not necessarily better designs. Most off-the-shelf systems use blocks at their segment junction points. When stowed, these blocks may bang on the mast. Correcting this situation requires the installation of hooks on the mast or boom and sections of shock cord to pull the support segment away from the mast. The need for blocks at the segment junctions is questionable, and they are more costly than thimbles.

Systems that use a line through the sail can cause sail chafe and require modifications to the sail and cover. Since the average do-it-yourself sailor can’t perform these modifications, the work can be expensive. These lines can also interfere with the shape of the sail when set. Changing the sail requires re-threading the lines through the sail each time it is changed or removed, neither a quick nor an easy task.

Some systems use shock cords to support the leg segments of the lazy-jacks. However, the shock cord provides too much stretch, and the sail may fall out of the lazy-jacks. Most of these systems use a plastic clip-on fitting to secure the lazy-jacks to the boom and mast. This plastic deteriorates in sunlight and often fails within a season or two.

With about an hour more than you would invest in the installation of an off-the-shelf lazy-jack system, you can make your own custom set, tailored to your boat.

Line choices

The line you select should match your splicing abilities and rig construction. There are four types to choose from: three-strand nylon; three-strand Dacron, standard double yacht braid, and more exotic fibers, such as Sta-Set X or Spectra line. Lazy jacks made of three-strand nylon for the average boat can be assembled for about $91. The same lazy jacks in Sta-Set would cost about $160. Don’t let cost be the only deciding factor; each line has advantages and disadvantages.

Three-strand nylon is simple to splice, requiring no tools and little knowledge. It’s inexpensive and available from most chandlers for 13 cents a foot or less for 1/4-inch diameter. However it is stretchy, so it is not as well-suited for high-aspect-ratio rigs where the stretch could allow the sail to fall off of the top of the boom. It’s susceptible to chafing where it contacts other lines, and it may cause twisting when deploying the lazy-jacks, necessitating the untwisting of the support lines.

While this is the cheapest line, with the most disadvantages, it served well on my 39-foot racer/ cruiser for more than five years, until recent replacement with double yacht braid. I’ve constructed a number of lazy-jack systems using three-strand nylon for people who wanted to spend as little as possible on the initial trial of the lazy-jack system. Each system I created with three-strand nylon has occasionally required some intervention to untwist the support lines. Using this line, you could first build a three-legged system, expand to a four-legged system, or experiment with other aspects. As it is the least expensive material, making radical changes in lazy-jack rigging rarely involves more than a $30 expense.

Less stretch

Three-strand Dacron is as easy to work with as three-strand nylon. It is less expensive than yacht braid or exotic fibers and has significantly less stretch than nylon: 4.2 percent compared to 16 percent when loaded to 15 percent of breaking strength. This makes lazy-jack deployment and tensioning easier. It has less tendency to twist than nylon, lasts longer, and is significantly less prone to chafe. It is also 10 to 20 percent stronger than the same-sized nylon. It looks great on traditionally rigged vessels on which the rest of the rigging is three-strand and costs about 18 cents a foot. A system constructed with three-strand Dacron for an average boat costs about $106.

Double yacht braid line has still less stretch than three-strand Dacron – only 2.4 percent. It is less prone to chafe than either of the three-strand lines and looks a lot more at home on a boat with braided running rigging. It is more difficult to splice than three-strand line, and splicing requires the use of a fid and pusher like those produced by Samson or the Splicing Wand from Brion Toss. Both come with excellent directions. Double yacht braid eliminates twist. It costs about 36 cents a foot. A system would cost about $160 for an average boat.

The exotic lines are more expensive, and there is no need to make your lazy-jack system out of these because lazy-jacks are not normally subject to the kinds of loads these lines are meant to handle. They do rate a single mention. Should your boat have an extremely high-aspect-ratio mainsail, you might wish to make the support segments out of Sta-Set X. This line is harder to splice but has the advantage of the least stretch for the money, at 1.6 percent stretch and about 59 cents per foot. This would reduce any tendency of the high-aspect-ratio sail to stretch out the lazy-jacks and fall off the top of the boom. An alternative to splicing might be a good seizing job; it’s almost as strong and a whole lot easier.

Excessive chafe

Chafe on the mast cause noise and wear

Chafe on the mast is an issue because of noise and wear.

With the exception of a turning block for the support segment, blocks are not well suited to use in lazy-jacks; they cause excessive chafe on the sail and bang on any surface they contact. They also add unnecessary expense to the installation. They’re prone to jamming when deploying the lazy-jacks and to sunlight damage to their sheaves. Blocks are meant to make adjusting a line under load easier, but in deploying your lazy-jacks there shouldn’t be any load. The weight of the sail is placed on the lazy jacks after they have been deployed and adjusted.

There are three types of thimbles available. These are used for the inserts that go into the eye splices to reduce the chafe and friction where the segments of the lazy jacks meet.

Galvanized steel thimbles are really cheap, but they rust quickly and make a mess of the sails, mast, and anything else they contact. Nylon thimbles are cheaper than stainless steel, are a nice white color, and won’t remove the surface coating of the mast should they come into contact with it. However, they do chafe more easily and are subject to degradation in sunlight, often being the first part of a lazy-jack system to fail. Stainless-steel thimbles last longer than nylon thimbles and have the least friction. If allowed to bang on the mast, they make a racket and remove the surface coating. I use them only when I’m certain they’re not going to contact the mast. They will outlast the rest of the lazy-jack system and probably even the boat itself.

Stainless wire

Most off-the-shelf systems use vinyl-coated stainless wire for support segments. The wires are mounted to pad-eyes on the mast. Since both ends of the support segment are next to the mast when the unit is stowed, the segment bangs against the mast in rolly or windy conditions. A fixed-support segment requires lazy-jacks to be adjusted, stowed, and deployed from a spot on the boom. The disadvantage is that you have to adjust them from the center of the boom. If you position the lazy-jack controls on the mast, it’s much easier to deploy them when the boom is moving or not centered on the boat.

Mounting control lines on the mast also makes it possible to mount the support segment blocks 6 to 8 inches out on the spreaders. This prevents banging on the mast. Mounting the support segment blocks on the spreaders works best on the upper spreader of double-spreader rigs. If your boat has a single-spreader rig, or if you are mounting to the lower spreader, three-strand nylon may stretch too much and let the sail fall off of the boom. In these cases, the easiest solution is to use a stiffer line.

For free-standing rigs , a general rule for the placement of the support segment blocks is: the higher the better. About 70 to 75 percent of the height of the mast off the deck provides a good angle. If the support segment blocks are too low, the tension is more forward than upward. In this situation, the sail pushes the lazy-jacks out of the way and falls off of the boom when it is lowered.

Spreader blocks

The parts list on the previous page is for a 40-foot boat I recently equipped with lazy-jacks. On this boat I was able to use spreader-mounted blocks for the support segment. The rig is modern, so we used 1/4-inch double yacht braid for the installation. Since the support segments were spreader-mounted, I used stainless-steel thimbles. If we had not been able to use the spreaders for the support segment blocks, I would have used two Harken 092 cheek blocks at a cost of about $8.79 each.

The first step in the installation is cutting the lines for the support segments. If you’re installing lazy jacks on a double-spreader rig and are able to use the spreaders as a mount for the support segment, measure the height of the second set of spreaders to the deck. Double this measurement and add 3 feet for splicing room. You will need to cut two lines this length for the support segments, one for each side of the mast.

If you are unable to use the spreaders as a mount for the support segments, you will want to mount the support segment blocks about 70 percent of the way up the mast . Measure this spot on the mast by using a long tape and a halyard. Make sure the area is clear of other fittings and there is sufficient room to mount the cheek blocks.

If you’re mounting the support segment blocks to the bottom of the spreaders, position them about 8 inches from the base of the spreaders at the mast. Double-check the location. If there are spreader lights, they must be far enough away that the line for the support segments will not chafe on them. Make sure the drill does not hit the spreader-light wiring.

Small dimple

Once you are certain there are no obstacles, use a center punch to make a small dimple as the mark for the first hole. Drill the hole, using a little light oil on the bit. Then lightly oil the tap and tap the hole, being careful to start and keep the tap perpendicular to the bottom of the spreader. With each turn you should turn the tap back a quarter of a turn. This helps to avoid breaking the tap off in the hole because it clears the chips from the tap. When the hole is tapped, spread some Ultra Tef-Gel or anti-seize on the screw, and screw one end of the eye strap into place just barely tight. Use the other end hole as a guide. Center punch on this mark, drill, and tap it as before. But before inserting the screw, slide the block onto the eye strap. String one of the two support-segment lines thorough the block, one end on each side of the lower spreader.

If you are mounting the support-segment cheek blocks to the mast, the procedure is much the same, except you are going to measure up to the position you determined earlier and mark in the middle of the side of the mast. Using the cheek block for a pattern, drill and tap each hole. Exercise caution while drilling in the mast; go slowly so as not to over-drill and damage wire or lines in the mast. Thread the support-segment lines through the blocks, keeping one end on each side of the spreaders below you (if any).

Next, mount the cleats on the mast. They should be about level with the end of the boom, on the side of the mast. Make sure they are not going to interfere with other control lines on the mast. If they do interfere, moving the cleats up or down several inches might solve the problem. If the area on the mast is too cluttered, you can mount them about a foot or so aft on the boom, making sure you lead the support-segment control lines aft of any spreaders to avoid chafe and noise. I’ve found that moving the bottom of the cleat slightly toward the bow of the boat makes cleating the support segments a lot easier than an absolutely vertical cleat.

Various effects

Boom length, batten length, and the hand of the sail cloth all have an effect on the perfect number and placement of the leg segments for the lazy-jacks. I have had excellent performance with three-legged systems with booms up to 16 feet. Many rigs have mainsails that are shorter on the foot than the length of the boom. In these cases the sail’s foot length is the critical measurement. The best way to determine the number and placement of the legs is trial and error; every rig is slightly different.

Here are some good starting points for placement, but they are only starting points; 20 minutes of testing will make sure that the lazy-jacks are dialed in perfectly for your boat. Measure 25 percent of the length of the foot of the sail, back from the gooseneck on the boom. Mark this position on the bottom of the boom. Repeat at 60 and 85 percent of the length of the foot of the sail, and mark the bottom of the boom for these points. These will be the starting position for the legs on a three-legged system.

Both the forward leg segment and the single line that makes up the middle and aft segments should initially be 2.5 times the length of the boom. The forward leg segment passes under the boom at the mark closest to the mast and is hoisted by the eyes spliced in the support segments. It, in turn, supports the after and center leg sections in a three-legged system.

The luff of the sail is held to the mast by the sail slides, so when adjusting the forward leg segment keep in mind that it should attach to the boom at about the most forward point where the sail first starts to fall off of the boom. About 25 percent of the sail’s foot length aft of the mast is a good starting point. Too far forward, and the leg provides no support for the center section of the sail; too far aft, and the top of the sail tends to fall off the boom.

Through thimbles

The aft and center leg sections in a three-legged system make a loop. They are supported by the forward leg segments where they pass through the thimbles spliced to the ends of the forward segment. The center leg segment supports the large belly of the sail so that the sail does not spill off the boom. Slight adjustments of the center segment fore and aft can have large results.

The aft leg attachment point is generally the first place to start adjusting the system. If the sail falls out the end of the lazy-jacks, you will need to move it aft; if the center section needs more support, try moving it forward to add some support to the center section.

When you are roughing in the system and testing it, attach the middle of one of these lines to the aftmost mark on the bottom of the boom, using a constrictor knot or some good tape wrapped a couple of times around the boom. Lead the ends forward to the center mark on the boom. Tie them together making a loop out of this line. Secure it to the boom with a constrictor knot or tape. You can use a loose bowline in place of all of the thimbles while testing.

On sails that have slides on the foot, it is often possible to use these slides as mounts for the leg segments of the lazy-jacks. This does, however, limit the options for placement, and does not function well in all cases. It also means that you will have to remove the leg segments from the boom to remove the sail.

Attached to boom

Now you have a roughed in lazy-jack system. The legs should be attached to the boom well enough that you can hoist and drop the sail into them. Hoist the sail on a calm day, drop it into the lazy-jacks, and adjust until the sail stays stacked on top of the boom.

Should you have a boom over 16 feet long and the sail falls out of the middle no matter what adjustments you make, you may need a four-legged system. A simple addition to the system you already are working on makes the transformation an easy one. Instead of the forward leg supporting the center and aft leg loop, as it does in a three-legged system, it is going to become a loop just like the one between the two aft segments. Connecting the two loops are two pieces of line, each about half the length of the boom, one on each side, that are supported by the support segment. Good starting positions for the boom attachment points on a four-legged system are at about 24 percent, 45 percent, 55 percent, and 84 percent of the boom length, measured aft from the gooseneck.

Once you have tested to make sure you have the legs roughly where you want them, test to see if the system stows cleanly away. To put the system in the stowed position, ease the support segments and place the aft side of the segments under the cleats on the mast, then tension the support segment halyard. At this point you may have to shorten the forward or aft leg segments to remove any excess line that drapes below the boom. Do this by simply retying your bowline on one side of the aft or forward section. The leg sections should lie parallel to the boom when stowed. Naturally, this may change the way the segments support the sail, so hoist the sail again and drop it into the lazy-jacks, making sure that everything still looks correct before splicing the thimbles in the ends and attaching the eye straps. This is the trial-and-error part.

Anti-seize compound

Mount the eye straps that hold the leg segments, with the holes fore and aft, using machine screws drilled and tapped into the bottom of the boom. Remember to put the lines through them before attaching the second screw. Some riggers use pop rivets for these attachments, however, I have not found them to hold up as well as properly tapped screws coated with anti-seize compound.

Tie a small knot on each side of the center of the leg segments under the boom to prevent having to readjust the system periodically. Alternately, a couple of stitches through the line and around each of the eye straps looks neater and serves the same function.

Splice thimbles into all of the segments where there are bowlines. Make sure that you place the line going through the thimble in the thimble to be spliced before making each of the splices.

Using the system is straightforward: simply ease the support segment halyards on the mast, remove the leg segments from the cleat bottoms, and tension the support segment halyards. The lazy-jacks are ready for use.

Deploying the lazy-jacks allows you to drop the mainsail any time the wind is on or forward of the beam. I have used them when picking up a mooring and when sliding into a slip under sail. Simply let the mainsheet out and drop the sail. Pull the mainsheet back in when the sail falls into the lazy-jacks and you have quickly de-powered without having to head into the wind.

If your sail should hang on the track and refuse to allow the sail to drop easily, check for bent sail slides, and lubricate the track and slides with a dry Teflon lubricant.

Readers’ comments: What about sail containment systems: lazy-jacks and furlers?

We asked our readers what their thoughts and experiences were with sail hoisting, dousing, and reefing systems.

  • Don Launer, of Forked River, N. J., has lazy-jacks on the jib, foresail, and mainsail of his Ted Brewer-designed Lazy Jack Schooner (what else, right?). All three lazy-jack systems are simple two-legged arrangements that do not stow. Don reports that all work well, but he needs to go head-to-wind to hoist the Marconi mainsail.
  • Ron Bohannon, of Big Bear City, Calif., says his previous boat, a Phil Rhodes Chesapeake 32, had a roller-furling main. (This is the older rolling-boom type of reefing where the sail stows around the boom, rather than inside of it.) He says this system works fine as long as a main is cut properly and the topping lift is adjusted correctly. He adds, “It sure is simpler than any other system.”
  • Fred Bauer, of Marblehead, Mass., says, “I have a classic boat with old-fashioned lazy-jacks, but don’t miss the Hood Stow-away system.” He points out that Dodge Morgan had the Hood system on American Promise when he sailed around the world in her. Fred says, “It’s by far the easiest and most precise way to trim sails to the power of the wind I’ve ever used.”
  • Patrick Matthiesen, of London, England, sent a detailed opinion of the Hood Stoboom. He thinks it may work well with short booms but did not work well on the 22-foot-long boom of his Sparkman & Stevens CCA 47 yawl. He would not have another one.
  • Gary Heinrich, of Chippewa Falls, Wis., said that he has slab reefing on his S2 9.2 with “no furling system for the main, other than the arms of those available and, in a pinch, the deck and lifelines, followed by sail ties.” He has no plans to change his S2, but has chartered larger boats with lazy-jacks and sailcovers built into the sail. On these boats it was necessary to go head-to-wind to hoist the sail, and it took more than one person to do it.
  • Larry Helber, of Rochester, N.Y., said he had installed a Schaefer lazy-jack system on his Grampian 28. He liked the leather-covered blocks and the one-cleat design for storing the lines. He felt the hardware supplied was of good quality. He did say, however, that the system turned out to be a very poor design and cited problems with raising the sail and jamming of the jacks where they pass under the boom. A friend of his bought the cheapest set of lazy-jacks he could find in a catalog, and they worked better. “I would do it again (install lazy-jacks), but I would choose the cheaper version,” he says.
  • Bruce Goldman, of Southfield, Mich., reminds us that almost every aspect of sailing is some kind of compromise. “We have an in-mast ProFurl system on our Beneteau Oceanis 300. The convenience, ease of sail handling, and ease of setting and striking the main and genoa more than compensate for the sad sail shape (and resulting poor performance). We had some initial trouble with the furling line, but a good wash and ample Sailcote solved that problem.”
  • Jerry Powlas and Karen Larson, of Maple Grove, Minn., wondered “how complicated does all this have to be?” Our 20-foot Flying Scot had a longer boom than our C&C 30. With such a short boom, our high-aspect-ratio mainsail couldn’t get in much trouble when we dropped it. It was not control that we needed, it was order. We wanted the main to flake neatly over the boom. Obviously a neat flake has alternating panels to port and starboard. We made a very neat flake in calm conditions and then marked the luff of the main with red and green permanent markers to show which side of the boom the sail should fall on at that point on the luff. We did the same for the roach.Now when we lower, the person at the halyard at the base of the mast guides the panels to port and starboard as they fall. The roach can be made neat at the same time by another person or later by the same person. Once the luff is laid down correctly, the roach can be made to follow with minimal effort. The main was soon so well-trained that it almost always falls correctly and unaided. We think the sail is too small to require extra gear to control it. We use the same red-green markings on our heavy 110-percent jib to help us get it flaked prior to bagging it. It works so well, we will probably mark all our jibs that way.

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 4, Number 4, July/August 2001.

About The Author

Guy Stevens

Guy Stevens

Guy and his wife, Melissa, are working on a circumnavigation aboard Pneuma, their good old 1973 Ericson 39. Currently, they're in the Marquesas.

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Lazy Jacks for Your Sailboat: Tips & Tricks


Our boat is complex. There are lots of moving parts, standing parts, parts work pretty well or parts that could use improvement. While circumnavigating, we’ve learned so much about our boat, but one of our very early lessons was on lazy jacks.

Table of Contents - Click to Jump

What are Lazy Jacks?

Our boat, Starry Horizons, a Fountaine Pajot Helia 44, has a stack pack for the mainsail. This stack pack attaches to the boom through a track. It closes around the sail with a zipper to keep the sail in a bundle. The lazy jacks keep the stack pack upright. The stack pack has a batten down the length of either side and integrated into the stack pack (and around the battens) are four loops on either side.

The lazy jacks tie to those loops. The part of the lazy jacks connected to the stack pack are the legs. Each leg is tied to the stack pack loop on either end, so you have four lines that make up your legs, all eight ends of the legs tied to the stack pack.

The next part of the lazy jacks is the risers. The risers run from the legs up to a pulley on the mast and then down to the base of the mast. There, they usually have their own cleats on either side where you secure the lines.

A pulley connects the risers and to the middle of the legs – or at least it should be! We were discussing lazy jacks with one FP owner. While we investigated his problem, we discovered that he didn’t have pulleys, the installers had simply tied the risers to the legs via a bowling knot. This is going to cause chafing issues with the lines so he replaced the bowlines with pulleys.

It is important that the lazy jacks never take the full weight of the sail and the boom. They are just to keep the sail and stack pack centered. The topping lift raises the boom up and takes a majority of the weight of the sail.

Why Do Boats Have Them?

Lazy jacks serve a couple of purposes. Aside from keeping the stack pack on top of the boom, they also help guide the mainsail down when you drop it. Ideally, your mainsail will naturally flake as you lower it down inside the stack pack.

When Should You Adjust Your Lazy Jacks?

We do not adjust ours at all. When you raise the mainsail, the boom lifts higher than it does when the weight is on the topping lift. This creates slack in the lines when raising the mainsail. When we drop the mainsail, we first ease our main halyard down until the topping lift is tight. This brings the lazy jacks back to their usual tightness, and then we finish dropping the sail.

If we adjust the topping lift for any reason, we adjust the topping lift. We have a line marked on our topping lift that aligns with the topping lift clutch in the cockpit. This ensures we get the boom to the same height every time.

Our Biggest Problem

Very early in cruising, we discovered that when raising your mainsail, the lazy jacks get in the way. Our mainsail has full battens, and the leech (the aft part of the sail which flogs) end of the battens often get caught on the upsidedown Y shape in the legs.

We complained about this problem to our friend Spike, who was the skipper of the Gunboat Tribe. He pointed out an easy solution: add a second pulley (or low-friction ring ) out from the mast. David and Spike got to work and lashed a low-friction ring on our diamond stays using thin Dyneema. This angles the lazy jacks away from the mast and makes it less likely that they will catch the battens while raising the mainsail.

The Boat Galley offers a way to loosen your lazy jacks and move them forward just before raising the mainsail, but that’s two trips to the mast that you may not have to take.

Replacing Lazy Jacks

Once set up properly, they are very easy to replace. I’ve replaced ours once. All you need is the replacement line and your knowledge of the most important knots for sailors – the bowline! The legs of the lazy jack attach to the stack pack loops with a simple bowline knot. Use a hot knife with the rope cutter attachment to trim your rope and use our tricks to replace running rigging to remove the old lazy jack and replace it with the newer one.

That’s just an awesome solution for such a common and annoying problem, thanks for sharing!

Great idea…but how do you attach the extra pulley? With lashings you say…but doesn t it slide down? Thanks

Nope, doesn’t slide. Lashings done properly won’t slip.

How does the boom movement work when the lazy jack lines are no longer centred on the boom?

No, it doesn’t interfere with the boom swing. The lazy jacks are still even and they have no problem going to one side or the other. We often move the boom at anchor when we are using the lounge deck. Under sail, of course, your lazy jacks are loose as the main is holding the boom up.

Thanks, we are still searching for a solution… we’ve been using Cat Impi’s solution which is just free the main sheet an let the boom out to follow the wind, and this works well in stable seas and constant wind, but not so much if the seas are rough… talked to one guy who ran the lazy Jack’s to blocks on the end of the spreader and then to the mast and down; never got a clear answer as to how he controlled the extra tension in the lines when down wind and the boom was well out…

Pulling the lazy jack’s forward and down is appealing, but wonder if the sail would fall out a bit over the boom… might try it and see… I don’t think I need to do anything but connect a line to the top block on each side and pull it down once I loosen the lazy jack’s…

Your way maybe simpler, but a couple of questions: 1) any concern about extra tension on your rigging. 2) was there issue with extra tension on the jack lines when the boom swings out downwind.

Getting used to life on the hard?

Hey Rick! We haven’t had any issues with additional tension anywhere. Let us know which route you decide to go with!

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What Are Sailing Lazy Jacks?

What Are Sailing Lazy Jacks? | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

If you ever find yourself struggling with hauling down the mainsail, do not reinvent the wheel since people already have sailing lazy jacks!

Lazy jacks are simply rigs that are put into your boom and mast to make raising and lowering the mainsail easier in any condition or with limited manpower. They work through a simple series of lines and come in multiple varieties depending on ship construction and budget.

No matter what kind of construction you choose, getting a sailing lazy jack will surely make your outings that much more enjoyable. In fact, even if you have a full crew, using them can help you save time and navigate better without having to worry about reefing or fighting with your mainsail. However, there is a lot of confusion over the different types of lazy jack systems out there, and this article hopes to conglomerate into one place all the questions you might have ever had that you cannot find in one place.

After combing through and reviewing dozens of first-hand accounts from people who have used lazy jack systems across a wide range of rigs and brands, we have compiled a list of common questions, problems, solutions, and background to make this the best beginner’s guide for lazy jacks possible. While not all-encompassing, this should serve well as a springboard for further questions on lazy jacks once you start looking into them.

Table of contents

Why Get a Lazy Jack?

Lazy jacks are great for a wide range of sailors and sailboats. While lazy jacks save the most time and hassle with larger sailboats or single sailors, that is not to say every sailboat would not get an advantage out of them. After all, every sailboat has the same problem of having to lower and raise a mainsail, and every boat does not have the luxury of favorable weather conditions. By getting a lazy jack system, you can save time and frustration that this task normally brings and be able to focus on more important things like the safety of navigation.

This is probably the single most important reason to get one of these systems, especially for solo sailors, because trying to fight the wind, the sail, and keep a steady course in a dense traffic environment, like entering or leaving port, is an inherently dangerous evolution. By being able to cut out some of the required manpower and focus more time on safely navigating, you can save yourself a lot of headaches in the future.

What Does a Lazy Jack System Consist Of?

One of the best parts about lazy jacks is that they can be as simple or as advanced as you want them to be depending on your individual circumstances. In its most basic form, lazy jacks will need at a minimum line, several pad eyes, blocks or rope thimbles, and possibly a bag. That is it!

Of course, you will also need tools and material to help install a lazy jack such as a hammer, drill, tape measure, center punch, screwdriver, and rivets. However, this kind of logistics is only for the more advanced commercial systems which brings us to our next question: commercial or do-it-yourself?

Commercial or DIY Lazy Jacks?

The first major decision you will have to make before getting a lazy jack is going to the commercial or DIY options. One of the main disadvantages of commercial lazy jacks is the cost. For larger sailboats, these kits can run up into the hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on the size of the sailboat you have. Additionally, these kits only come with instructions and you would still have to pay someone else for installation if you did not want to do it.

For do-it-yourself kits, there is a plethora of information and guides online that explain in detail what materials you will need, where to put them, and how to install them. In fact, most of the major marine companies even publish their manuals like this  one  for free online on how to install the lazy jack system and these are chock full of useful information.

When done correctly, a DIY lazy jack system is the better option for sailboats less than 50 feet and for usually less than 50 dollars. In fact, you can usually repurpose most of the materials you probably already have like lines, rope thimbles, and cleats. Even larger sailboats would see the limited utility in getting a commercial kit since they would be geared more towards a specific brand of the boat that you might not have.

What Kinds of Lines to Use?

Choosing the kind of line you will use is probably the last big decision you will make since this will directly affect the performance of your lazy jack system. When choosing lines, you need to focus on strength and durability. The key here is to strike a balance between having enough strength to handle your mainsail while also not being too tough or gritty to damage your sail when underway.

For most people, using 1/8” or 3/16” is plenty enough strength. Additionally, synthetic lines like nylon or polyester work best since they are durable, lightweight, and can be easily spliced, which are all qualities that you will need when setting up your rig. The main reason why you want to use the right size line is not only to ensure that you have enough strength to hold in the mainsail and that the system functions properly but if the lines are too large this may also cause unnecessary chaffing to your mainsail. While this is surely not an exhaustive list by any means, since you could probably write an entire article on lines alone, these are a few things to consider when starting to look at lines if you have absolutely no idea where to start.

What Options Are Available?

For lazy jack systems, both DIY and commercial, there are three main systems to choose from:

  • Two-line system
  • Three or four line system
  • Dutchman system

Determining which system to get largely depends on the size of your mainsail. For those with smaller or medium-sized boats, a two-line system should be just fine. For those with larger sails, a three or four-line system would provide better support to fight against a larger sail. For the Dutchman system, this is better suited for those with battens

Two-Line System vs. Three and four-line systems

There is really no right or wrong answer for what kind of system you need to get for your sailboat. After all, the whole purpose of the lazy jacks is to help guide your mainsail back onto the boom to help stow it. However, before you go out and get a whole bunch of line and start connect lines to your boom and mast, consider a few pros for a two-line system:

  • Easier to set up
  • Less material to use
  • Less opportunity to catch on your sail

However, despite a two-line system’s simplicity, there are a few drawbacks:

  • Provides less support
  • Not suitable for larger sails  
  • Loss of redundancy if a line parts

Three and four-line systems are obviously needed for those with larger sails and help those who want to have greater support and redundancy. However, they too have a few cons:

  • More difficult to rig
  • Usually has blocks that need to be secured
  • Less novice-friendly

Dutchmen System

One of the main problems with sailboats with lazy jacks is that if you have battens installed they frequently get caught when hoisting the mainsail. For those sailboats, it is recommended to use the Dutchmen system. The Dutchmen system prevents battens from getting caught in the lazy jack lines by having lines interwoven into the mainsail every few feet through fairleads. These leads help raise and lower the sail like a window shade.

While this system is great for those with battens, unless you have sail-making experience, you would not be able to make this system on your own. Additionally, this system requires the use of a topping lift line. Since not all sailboats come equipped with this line you would have to add it on.

How Does a Lazy Jack Work?

Operating a lazy jack is rather simple. After all, if it was not it would not be as popular as it is today. In its most basic form, the pilot can operate the lazy jack by pulling the lazy jack off its cleat and then attaching the hooks to the boom where it is anchored. You then raise the mainsail and get underway.

No matter whether you have a two, three, or four-line system, the lines act as a guide when you are ready to retrieve the mainsail. To keep the rig anchored, you will usually have two pad eyes drilled into the mast and then the lines will be fastened to the boom. The lines should ideally cover three-quarters of the surface area of the sail and wherever there is a junction a rope thimble or block should be used.

When retrieving a mainsail, you simply hook the lazy jack back together and then let the sail flake itself down onto the boom. While this might be easier for sails with battens on them, for those without this extra process it might be kind of a pain and take some of the utility out of having a lazy jack.

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I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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Sailing with lazy jacks and stack packs.

diy lazy jack for sailboat

What are lazy jacks and stack packs? 

Lazy jacks are networks of lines that are rigged along each side of the mainsail from multiple points on the boom or a stack pack to a point on the mast just above the spreaders, at about 60% the mast's height. Their purpose is to hold the mainsail on top of the boom when it is lowered.

Typically, lines called "legs" are joined with single lines called "risers" to form two upside-down Y shapes. However, lazy jack legs and risers can be rigged in a variety of configurations. Also, the legs can be joined to the risers with blocks, rings, or even tied together. The space between the two sets of lazy jacks on either side of the sail is known as the "pocket."

The stack pack (sometimes called a lazy pack or lazy bag) is a modern type of a sail cover. It is secured to the boom and zips closed at the top to protect the sail from sun damage when it's not in use.

Lazy jacks can be set up with or without a stack pack. When a stack pack is present, the lazy jacks are tied to the stack pack to support it. With no stack pack, the lazy jacks are rigged directly to the  boom.

lazy jacks and stack pack system image.jpg

diy lazy jack for sailboat

Nine yachts in the Modern Sailing School & Club fleet are equipped with lazy jack systems. Only one of these has lazy jacks with no stack pack.

  • Fiore Italia  (Beneteau Oceanis 31)
  • Kokomo   (Catalina 320) - lazy jacks only, no stack pack
  • Traharta (Beneteau Oceanis 35)
  • Auriah  (Beneteau Oceanis 37)
  • Sijambo  (Beneteau Oceanis 423)
  • Ry Whitt (Jeanneau 409)
  • Coho II (Spencer 1330)
  • Vela Mare  (Seawind 1160 Catamaran)
  • Kanaloa  (Fontaine Pajot Lavezzi 40 Catamaran)


  • On larger boats, a mainsail can be very heavy and unweildy to handle, especially in high winds. When dousing, lazy jacks guide the mainsail into the stack pack and keep it neatly flaked on top of the boom - instead of flopping all over the deck. In San Francisco Bay, lazy jacks and stack packs are particularly useful, even on smaller boats.
  • Since a stack pack remains on the boom even while sailing, there's no separate sail cover to wrestle with and no need to fiddle with snaps or clasps at the bottom. After dousing the mainsail, simply zip up the stack pack and you're done!
  • When hoisting the mainsail, batten ends can get snagged on the lazy jacks. It takes a bit of caution and precision steering to raise the main without snagging it.
  • A stack pack adds windage that can detrimentally affect sailing performance to some degree. For many leisure sailors and cruisers, this is not a major concern.
  • Lazy jacks are not intended to replace the topping lift as support for the boom. Never loosen the topping lift to the point that the lazy jacks bear the boom's weight.

How To Hoist a Mainsail with Lazy Jacks

Your goal is raise the mainsail without snagging the battens on the lazy jacks. The trick is for the helmsman to watch the sail as it goes up, steer carefully, and use the breeze to help keep the mainsail in the pocket between the lazy jacks. 

  • Steer the boat to head the bow into the wind. Keep the boat pointed as straight into the wind as possible. 
  • Loosen the mainsheet and begin hoisting the mainsail.
  • As the mainsail approaches the point where the legs join the risers, keep a close eye on the sail. If the wind is pushing the sail into one of the legs, steer towards the wind until the sail is luffing evenly between the lazy jacks (in the pocket) on both sides again. 
  • If a batten gets snagged on the lazy jack, immediately instruct your crew to stop hoisting, then lower the sail until the batten is clear of the line. Steer the boat towards the wind just until the wind pushes the sail back into the pocket.

Additional Tips

  • In "Hurricane Alley" (the entrance to Richardson Bay, the Sausalito arm of San Francisco Bay), winds often blow in a circular or erratic pattern, which can complicate hoisting a mainsail with battens and lazy jacks. Before hoisting the mainsail, check the masthead windex frequently to determine if wind direction is steady. If not, consider motoring to a location such as Racoon Straights or The Slot where the wind direction may be more steady. Note that heavy winds will luff the mainsail more vigorously, increasing the odds that you'll experience a snag. (Wind conditions and directions on the Bay may vary by season and weather.)  
  • Never force a stuck sail by grinding hard on a winch. Excessive force could damage the sail, lazy jacks, or other components.

How To Douse the Mainsail

Hoisting the mainsail may require attention and skill, but dousing is a breeze - and the best part of sailing with lazy jacks!

  • If conditions and crew size permit, send a crew member forward to stand in front of the mast and evenly flake the luff of the sail as it comes down. 
  • Steer to point the boat's bow into the wind and loosen the mainsheet.
  • If a crew member is at the mast to flake the sail, ease the main halyard in a controlled manner to facilitate flaking. Otherwise, simply douse the sail and let it fall into the stack pack.
  • Zip the stack pack closed. That's it!

Additional Tip

If the mainsail didn't flake evenly into the stack pack as it was doused, the stack pack may be difficult (or impossible) to zip closed. If conditions at the dock permit, hoist and douse the sail again and stand at the mast to flake it evenly as it comes down. Also, it helps to tug the leech to straighten out the sail, if necessary.

Coho II mainsail lazy jacks and stack pack.jpg

diy lazy jack for sailboat

Article by Mary Elkins on February 6, 2020

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Ezjack/lazyjack/diy what to look for?

  • Thread starter Mike Oldak
  • Start date Oct 5, 2015
  • Forums for All Owners
  • Ask All Sailors

I have a 34 foot Hunter and want to install a xxjack system to hold the sails once they are dropped. I've seen a variety of systems and even have someone who will install his own version. What should i be looking for in a xxjack system?  


make sure you don't have to go forward and disengage or engage it, that it doesn't catch the battens going up nor interfere with the main when up and drawing and that it has enough lines to actually control the sail when fully lowered--you'll appreciate that in a blow when single handing!  


The store on this site has a kit available. It is Harken's and it is quite pricey, but the "medium" kit should work for you. Alternatively, you can make it yourself. For your size boat, you would need at least three "legs" for the lazy jacks. Measure the amount of line three times before you cut it. And consider that you need substantially more line than you initially think. Many people would say that you don't need blocks in the system (a SS ring should do). My experience is that there is a lot of chafe on the rings and (very) small blocks (10-15 mm) work much better. A jam cleat is handy, especially if you are shorthanded.  

Take a look at the Sailrite Stack Pack. It's lazy jacks and a sail cover combined. When you drop the sail it falls into the bag, then you just zip the top closed. The downside is the cover stays up all the time and looks funny if its a different color. Get it in white and it's not so obvious. I have one and love it. There are premade ones from other sail makers like Mack and Doyle too.  


Hey, Last year I installed this system: http://www.downwindmarine.com/Sail-Care-Lazy-Jack-Kits-p-90891017.html It's very similar to the one I had on my O'day 35 ,which worked great for years. On my O'day, I had the sailcover modified so the LJ's stayed deployed all the time. On my C&C I don't like to have the LJ's deployed while sailing so I go forward to retract them and then again to deploy them before dropping the sail. I should have done a better job of measuring and mounting the hardware. The sail on my C&C is much larger than the one on my O'day 35, so there is more sail to contain. Still, I'm happy with the way they work. Good luck, Barry  


I merely tied appropriate lengths of cord to the reef points on the leech, and shackled the ends to the topping lift where they slide up and down. Works great for keeping much of the sail on or near the boom, and I can flake the sail and tie it up easily without leaving the boom. And still can use the reef points if needed. Total cost: $0 -I had the small shackles in inventory.  


What is xxjack? I have a Dutchman on my boat and find it works very nicely.  

Chris & Lenore

Chris & Lenore

A guy at our club bought these and loved them: http://www.ezjax.com They custom build for each bost vs generic sizing. He did mention that if he did it again he would use the 4 line version (he has a 32 foot boat). He felt it could control the sail better when he dropped it. Chris  


I would want 4 lines to the boom each side, looped through two separate rings each side, those two rings looped to a higher ring and that ring tied off and the line led to a block outboard on the spreader to open the "throat", down to a cleat on each side. 6 SS rings, two blocks, two cleats, and eight padeyes on the boom. 5 mm dacron line to make it work. Keeping the system wide at the top makes it a set-and-forget system for most sailing. Similar to what Barry posted. That said, I still like a sail bag the best of all sail control systems.Contains a reefed sail very nicely.  

Stu Jackson

Stu Jackson

When you get one: Lazy Jack Trick Many folks complain about full battens getting caught up when raising the mainsail. They then spend a lot of time moving BOTH sides of the lazy jacks to the mast. We developed an easier way with our lazy jacks. We have a small cleat on the forward starboard side of the boom. When we put the halyard on the headboard, we move ONLY the starboard side of the lazy jacks forward and snug them under the forward side of the horn of this cleat. Then, when we raise the mainsail, instead of going exactly head to wind, we bear off a tad to starboard so the wind is coming from the port side of the bow. We then raise the mainsail and it doesn't get hooked on the lazy jacks even though the port side jacks are still there. Been working for 16 years. Yes, we have to go forward again to unhook the starboard lazy jack for dousing the sail if I forget to do it right when the main is raised, but there's never any hurry. The drill is: after the main is raised, I unhook that starboard lazy jack, so they're both ready to go when we drop the sails at the end of the day. So, for those of you with lazy jacks, consider doing only one side. Your boat, your choice. C:\Users\Stu\Stu\Boat\Lazy Jack Trick.doc  

Stu Jackson said: When you get one: Lazy Jack Trick Many folks complain about full battens getting caught up when raising the mainsail. They then spend a lot of time moving BOTH sides of the lazy jacks to the mast. We developed an easier way with our lazy jacks. We have a small cleat on the forward starboard side of the boom. When we put the halyard on the headboard, we move ONLY the starboard side of the lazy jacks forward and snug them under the forward side of the horn of this cleat. Then, when we raise the mainsail, instead of going exactly head to wind, we bear off a tad to starboard so the wind is coming from the port side of the bow. We then raise the mainsail and it doesn't get hooked on the lazy jacks even though the port side jacks are still there. Been working for 16 years. Yes, we have to go forward again to unhook the starboard lazy jack for dousing the sail if I forget to do it right when the main is raised, but there's never any hurry. The drill is: after the main is raised, I unhook that starboard lazy jack, so they're both ready to go when we drop the sails at the end of the day. So, for those of you with lazy jacks, consider doing only one side. Your boat, your choice. Excellent idea! Chris C:\Users\Stu\Stu\Boat\Lazy Jack Trick.doc Click to expand

We have had ezjax for about 10 years now and are quite satisfied. As for avoiding snagging battens, we use shock cord with carabiners on each end and connect the shock cord from ezjax o-rings to the shrouds which pulls the ezjax to the side.  


I made my own. I don't use pullies or any type of system to drop it out of the way, however I designed it so that the boom angles down some, once the sail is down. This way, when I raise the sail, the lines go slack, because the boom lifts up. I don't see it as chaffing the sails, as it is so slack when not in use, that it falls away from the sail.  

Tom G P-21

Skipper said: I merely tied appropriate lengths of cord to the reef points on the leech, and shackled the ends to the topping lift where they slide up and down. Works great for keeping much of the sail on or near the boom, and I can flake the sail and tie it up easily without leaving the boom. And still can use the reef points if needed. Total cost: $0 -I had the small shackles in inventory. Click to expand
Tom G P-21 said: Skipper your system is similar to what is called Lazy mate. It is on my list of things to do. It looks like simple enough system. I thought that I would just do the bottom 2/3rd's of the sail. http://westsail.info/index.php?action=posts&thread_id=1491 Click to expand


[QUOTE="I have a 34 foot Hunter and want to install a xxjack system to hold the sails once they are dropped. What should i be looking for in a xxjack system?[/QUOTE] You have a 34, I have a 32. I added a 4th lazy jack line to the aft end of the boom to keep the sail up out of the cockpit and off the bimini.  

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How to make simple lazyjacks

  • Thread starter Babylon
  • Start date 9 Feb 2011


Well-known member

I wish to equip my 27 footer with simple lazyjacks (ie no zip-closing mainsail cover attached to the boom) to help contain the main when its dropped singlehanded. Is there a description anywhere of how to make them oneself, and from what materials?  


It's what google was invented for http://www.westerly-owners.co.uk/woaforum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1243  


Active member

Here's how I did it. Get a spool of 3 or 4 mm cordelette. I use dyneema so it is strong enough to support the boom. Tie off at upper spreaders. Run down towards deck and tie a bowline where you can just reach it by standing on the boom. Next piece of cord is made off to the boom well aft, then run up through the bowline on the upper cord, and down to the kicker attachment. At the kicker attachment it runs through a shackle (one one attaching the kicker to the boom) and back up towards the bowline. Make off with a rolling hitch. Repeat on other side of boat. Now you have a two-part lazy jack that can be eased and tightened at the mast just by sliding the rolling hitch. I have added a third part from the bowline to near the gooseneck (again with a rolling hitch) to catch the luff of the sail better. Ease the rolling hitches when the sail is up to prevent chafe. Works for me. Very light, no fittings, blocks or other hardware required, and very strong.  


That link gives the basics, however you need to consider being able to adjust the tension of the lazyjacks, as going downwind in particular any lazyjacks tight enough to contain the sail when it is dropped are liable to cause chafe. where the blocks rub on the sail. The best way to rig them is not simply to tie off at spreader level, but fit small blocks and bring the lines down to cleats both sides of the mast. If you have a fully battened mainsail you need to experiment with the lengths of the various lines to find a setup that avoids the batten ends getting caught as you hoist the sail. Yes I know you should hoist the sail going dead upwind, and the sail should rise up centrally between the lazyjacks, but it doen't always work out that way.  


I made mine from 3mm nylon bought for less than a fiver for 100meters on ebay. It goes up over the spreaders, which isn't quite high enough, and the bottom ends are through webbing tabs sewn along the foot of the sail above where it slides throught he groove in the boom. They attach on the foot at 15%, 45% and 85% of the foot measurement, measuring from the boom aft. It works very well, espescially for singlehanded sailing, though asa I say needs to be either higher up the mast, widers at the top or maybe both. I'm working on that! The next thing is to make a stackpack, which I reckon I can do for about £50. Thinking about it, I may be able to re-cut the existing sail cover, so maybe make one for a lot less.........  

diy lazy jack for sailboat

I hook mine around the reefing horns once the sails up. BTW, there's really no need to shell out for little blocks. they're un-necessary and cause chafe. I sewed in plastc eyes which cost about 10p each. The KISS principle. The whole set up cost about £5 with enough line over to make winter tails for all the halyards and keep some spare.  


Is this any help? http://slowflight.net/upgrades/lazyjacks_how-to.html  


Important to be able to tie them forward to the mast somehow to avoid chafe and also makes hoisting the sail MUCH easier as you no longer have to worry about the battens getting caught. Try plastic eyes to begin with I have one eye and one pulley per side but it is a 44 footer.  


Also, think about how you are going to fit your sail cover.  


Norman_E said: The best way to rig them is not simply to tie off at spreader level, but fit small blocks and bring the lines down to cleats both sides of the mast. /QUOTE] Alternatively, instead of bringing them down from the blocks to cleats on the mast, you might wish to consider bringing them down to cleats on the boom, a couple of feet or so aft of the goose-neck. This effectively adds another 'leg' and prevents the line banging against the mast and keeping you awake! Click to expand...
  • 10 Feb 2011

lazyjacks You could run the lines vertically to three loops on the topping lift,this is what I did to avoid the battens getting caught when hoisting.I have a bag on the boom to catch the sail as it falls. I used shockcord in the lazyjacks at first to give some stretch but it turned out not to be neccessary.  

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How To Install Lazy Jacks

  • By Green Brett
  • Updated: October 28, 2015

Installing Lazy Jacks

In the glory days of sail, the British sailors were known as jack-tars, and with a flurry of shouted commands from the quarterdeck, they could have a huge sail furled or reefed in seconds. Today, forcibly pressing large numbers of civilians into low-paying servitude aboard your boat is generally frowned upon, so new methods have been developed to tame sails. One of the most important innovations for shorthanded sailing is, arguably, lazy jacks, so named because the sailor using them can simply let go of the halyard. The sail then drops into a nice basket on top of the boom ready for furling or reefing—no sail wrestling involved. As an added bonus, the person on the helm never has his or her vision blocked by the sail.

For our 44-foot Reliance ketch, Lyra , my wife, Jen, and I wanted a non-intrusive lazy jack system that could be quickly deployed, adjusted with one hand, and put safely away when not in use. We didn’t want to alter our existing sail cover, and we didn’t want the lazy jacks to chafe the sail.

diy lazy jack for sailboat

After a couple of hours of raising and lowering the main while mocking up the lazy jacks using parachute cord and halyards, we decided that three support lines did the job. Each of the support lines is fastened to the boom just forward of the leech end of a batten; the sail should naturally land in the basket and shouldn’t hang on the support lines when it’s being raised. Each of the cheek blocks for the halyards aloft should be independently able to take the weight of the boom.

Materials and Costs

For the halyard on our lazy jack installation aboard Lyra, we used 55 feet each side (110 feet in total) of 1/4-inch braided Sta-Set X [1] , from New England Ropes, at a cost of $78. We used 42 feet each side (84 feet in total) of 3/16-inch braided Sta-Set X [2] for the support lines; this cost $45. The six 1/4-inch Orbit blocks [3] from Ronstan—we used three on each side—cost $72. The total cost of the two 1/4-inch Spinlock jammers [4] we used, one per side, was $84. The 12 Ronstan sister clips [5], used six to a side, cost $24. The total cost of our new lazy jack system? $303, along with six hours of labor, most of which we spent developing the right configuration. Miscellaneous items we used include whipping twine, a sewing needle, a hot knife, machine screws with appropriate taps, a drill, bits, and cutting oil for drilling and tapping.

Green Brett has been sailing and living aboard since childhood, and he currently shares his love of cruising through his company, On Watch Sailing charters and instruction, out of Newport, Rhode Island.

diy lazy jack for sailboat

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Home Made Lazy Jack System

diy lazy jack for sailboat

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diy lazy jack for sailboat

You might want to check this thread. http://www.sailnet.com/forums/gear-maintenance/39837-lazy-jacks-poor-person.html  

diy lazy jack for sailboat

I bought one of these and installed it on my boat 2 weeks ago. I like the way it works, but you do have to move the lines forward when sailing. SailCare  

I made my own lazy jack system (copied PO's really) by using thin line (can't recall the size, probably 1/4" or less) with thimble eyes on the end (instead of usual blocks). One advantage of this is that the whole thing is so light that it doesn't really need to be removed while sailing (though I usually do it anyway - but really it does not interfere and can barely be seen).  

Here's a homemade idea I copied this from someone else on another thread thinking I'd try it this summer. I can't vouch for it (yet). _______________________ I made my own using only line and a couple of SS eyes. My lazy jacks do not retract, and this has not been a problem. The way I installed my lazy jacks was keeping it simple. I ran a line around the mast over the top of the spreaders and brought each end to within 30" above the boom at its midpoint. Tied a bowline at each end. Then I tied a line to the bowline and went under the boom thru an eye that I installed and back up to the other side to the other bowline and terminated that line. I did this two more times so that I ended up with 3 triangles, alongside the lenght of the boom. The lines are not tight but relatively slack. I have been doing this now for 5 years with no problems.  

This is approximately how my system is set up, though it does have two small cheek blocks on the mast.  

diy lazy jack for sailboat

Here is a well explained article on homemade lazy jacks. Inexpensive too! Tips - Lazy Jacks Dave  

diy lazy jack for sailboat

BreakingWind2 said: Here is a well explained article on homemade lazy jacks. Inexpensive too! Tips - Lazy Jacks Dave Click to expand...

diy lazy jack for sailboat


Line Diagram Slope Parallel Sail

EO32 said: My PO had purchased a "Home made" Lazy Jack system with PVC loops and wads of shock cord, knots and line. I took me an hour to untangle it and lay it out to even figure out what it was. It also took about a hour to put it up, using the spreader halyard cord, and it was just a mess. Looking at various designs I came up with this. I tried it out this weekend and it works great. 10 Pad Eyes $5 1/8 shock line $5 100 ft 3mm cord $25 6 clips $10 About $40 I drilled and tap my boom to install the pad eyes with #10 SS screws. The Red lines are the 3mm cord and the blue lines are shock cord. The Alpine loops are a very nice loop knot. I had spreader blocks so I used those, but you could put pad eyes or cheek blocks on the mast. I also had "Aladen" cleats on the shrouds. Two bonus features. 1. The two main lazy jack lines can be unclipped and used as sail ties. 2. The two unclipped shock lines can be attached to halyards when cleated to the shroud cleat to pull the halyards from banging on the mast. The very aft spring line is attached and also acts as a sail tie. Click to expand...

diy lazy jack for sailboat

Instead of drilling and tapping the boom, I would have used stainless steel or monel pop rivets. It isn't very likely that you'd need to remove a padeye, since they really don't need to be maintained, like a line clutch or a winch would, and pop riveting is probably better on a spar, since you don't have sharp screws sticking out into the interior to chafe/snag/rip the lines running through the spar.  

Funny you say that. I used pop rivets when I mounted my horns to the mast, but I'm glad I used screws on the boom. 1) The screws are #10 /32 machine screws 1/2 inch long, so they won't catch on the outhaul inside the boom. (I tapped the boom holes) 2) One of the Pad Eyes broke as I tighened the screws down, so it was a simple repair. I used Tef-Gel on each screw.  

The PO had a bunch of Chrome Cast Pad Eyes. My boom is round so it broke right where the bend starts.  

If it were me I would use the money I saved making my own lazy jacks and get a stack pack sail cover. With the stack pack and lazy jacks you can drop the sail right into the sail cover and zip it up in a minute. Same goes for hoisting sails, just unzip the sail cover and haul away. To me lazy jacks are only one half of the system.  

Bubb2- The stackpack is a great idea, but a StackPack is a Doyle sail loft creation and is attached to the sail.... a better idea is to get a StackPack like sail cover that uses the sail track on the boom instead. Gui's boat has one.  

sailingdog said: Bubb2- The stackpack is a great idea, but a StackPack is a Doyle sail loft creation and is attached to the sail.... a better idea is to get a StackPack like sail cover that uses the sail track on the boom instead. Gui's boat has one. Click to expand...

The best I've seen (so far) are E-Z-Jax (ezjaxdotcom.) Their advantage is that they are immediately stowable alongside the mast and boom while under sail. When needed, they can be swiftly deployed. By doing some math and some advanced head-scratching, you could copy their design for your own personal use. But why bother when their cost is so reasonable?  

SD, Why are you leading it back to the cockpit? I usually don't touch mine. They are slack enough not to interfere with the main (other than a batten hanging up once in a while when raising the main) and still tight enough to be effective.  

Can a lazy jack system also function as a boom topping lift? My San Juan still has the pig tail hook on the backstay, so this seems like a significant improvement. Thanks  

My homemade ones lift from the center of the spreaders and have some shock cord in them, so other than getting a batten caught while raising, they barely rest against the sail.  

thank you!  

diy lazy jack for sailboat

Two things: 1. Google is a great search tool, the search built in here is not so great. Doing a google search "Lazy Jacks Sailnet" will give you a bunch of results. 2. To create a post in general, go to the "forum" part just under the Sailnet Logo, top left, this will give you a listing of the different forums. Select an appropriate forum, and then a subforum and from there you can "Create Post'. For Lazy Jacks, just click on the "Gear And Maintenance" tab, and create a post.  

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  • Mainsail Handling Made Easy with Lazyjacks


Other sailors are often surprised that Phyllis and I set, reef, and strike our 56′ McCurdy & Rhodes cutter’s 600-square-foot mainsail without resorting to complex gear like roller furling masts or booms.

But, actually, it’s pretty easy using the simple gear that we have installed and fine tuned over 22 years and well over 100,000 miles.

The core of our system is our lazyjacks. In my opinion, any boat over about 45 feet that will be sailed shorthanded needs lazyjacks. Having said that, many of the systems we see out there are way too complicated. Here’s all you need:

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Erik de Jong

We use an identical system on our boat, and it has served us very well. We even use a similar system to keep our hank-on headsail ( 900 sqft/83sqm) under control. Even while sailing singlehanded, we never lost control about any of our sails.

I did however decide to make only two reefs in the mainsail. The second reef is where normally the third reef would be, and the first one is approximately half way up that second reef. In addition to this, we used some smart panelling in combination with striped clews and tacks rather than layerd patches. This reduced the weight of the mainsail by approximately 30% and made it more flexible as well at the same strength.

We are very happy with the entire setup, and can, just as you do, recommend this to anyone who wants to go out there for some serious offshore cruising.


A couple of concepts from both sides of the size spectrum: The first from a discussion on Lat 38 about reefing catamaran mainsails off the wind. As was mentioned in the recent “multihull” discussion, one of the safety concerns about performance catamarans comes from the large size of the mainsails and the boats potential for rapid acceleration. With a high roach full batten main and a conventional reefing procedure as soon as the main halyard is slacked while running, the sail and battens are plastered/bent against the single aft swept shrouds. In the case of a fractional shroud wing mast there is nothing to prevent the top portion of the sail from blowing around to the point of damage of the track and batten car system. Reefing without damage is potentially difficult and requires some sort of downhaul line system.

Here is one take on the problem that makes sense. I’m not a fan of boom furling based upon a single delivery where the system was referred to as the Seizure Furl, but for this application it may be perfect because it allows single handed reefing of a large main while always maintaining halyard tension.

“FURLING MAINS HELP WHEN REEFING The August issue had some letters on the subject of reefing a cat off the wind, and it also had the interview with Jim and Kent Milski, who adhered to the ‘reef early’ credo while doing their three-year circumnavigation on Sea Level I never was caught in a big blow aboard my 40-ft catama- ran Oboe, but the team in New Zealand who rigged her said there were two essentials for reefing while sailing downwind in a blow: a roller furling boom and an electric winch. Here’s the one-man drill: 1) Set the boom at the proper angle with the topping lift and the mainsheet. (The proper angle is critical because it’s necessary for the main to roll evenly into the boom along the luff and leach.) 2) Take three turns on the winch with the roller furling line, hit the winch switch, and tension the furl line. 3) Take two turns above the roller furling line with the main halyard. 4) With both tails in your left hand, throw the clutch on the main halyard. The tensioned roller furling might pull in a half-inch of main, with the halyard now tensioned on the drum of the winch. 5) Your left hand now has the roller furl tail; your right hand has the main halyard tail. Using your foot or knee, hit the switch for the electric winch. 6) As the winch turns, the left hand pulls the roller furling lead while the right hand slacks, paying out on the main halyard, letting it slip on the winch drum. All this takes place in measured time — one hopes. Both lines remain tensioned, but the slip on the drum of the halyard keeps the main rolling in — slowly and tightly. It’s an easily rehearsed exercise, but getting the main onto the roller furling boom mandrel in a neat and tidy fashion does require some practice. Jay Bliss Oboe, 40-ft cat St. Augustine”

At the other end of the spectrum the sailmaker who built my first full batten main suggested a system that was simplicity in itself, and worked perfectly on the 350 sq ft main. At the end of each batten he supplied a reinforced grommet. I rigged a 1/4′ line as a topping lift from the spare main masthead shieve. Threaded on it were a number of 1′ rings for each batten end. All I had to do was lead a light line from each ring to the grommets tied just long enough to tighten when the topping lift line was taunt. Under sail the topping lift was slackened enough so the batten lines were free flying, and while reefing each batten fell neatly on the boom. Simplicity in itself. but probably not for a 600′ main. And I never tried it downwind in big breeze.

John Harries

Hi Richard, My one exposure to a roller reefing boom was on a 90-foot sloop that I was guide/mate aboard for a voyage to Greenland and back. That experience doubled, trebled, and quadrupled, my commitment to simplicity, and my distrust of complex power driven systems like roller furling booms.

We reef downwind all the time with a full batten main and without problems, although I’m not sure our system would work for a cat because of the big roach.

Its not only the roach, but the location of the twin backstays/side stays on a catamaran mast that makes downwind reefing a challenge.

haha. Imagine the “challenge” of trying to reef Jim Clark’s sloop that was designed around the need to prove “mine is bigger than yours” and wouldn’t fit under the Golden Gate bridge. With the added complication that every function was performed from the windowless computer control room with buggy software running on Windows.

Conny Harlin

Have used lazy jacks for som time. Now I have upgrade / refined to a Lazy-Bag from Lundh Sails. Works great, peace of cake to reef and store the main. Check this out http://www.lundhsails.se/produkter/lazybag .

Andre Langevin

Very nice and perfected system. I can appreciate the time it take to instillate efficience in a mainsail handling system. This is why i choose mast furling for my new 45 feet sailboat – and altough i miss some aspects of performance, the peace of mind and the fact that a single person can handle the 550 square feet mainsail alone without leaving the cockpit is one step toward using the sails as a propulsion system rather than a sport. I guess there are already more new boats selling with in mast or in boom furling compared to traditional mainsail. Technology advance is impossible to stop…


We installed lazy jacks 3 years ago on our 36-foot cutter. We opted to use 1/8 amsteel with closed eyes —using a double brummel—thus no blocks and no chafe. We are very pleased with this set up. It deploys and retracts easily on all points of sail.

We have 4 legs, cheek blocks below the upper spreader on the mast and pad eyes on the boom. In a pinch, the lazy jacks can serve as a topping lift, should the dedicated topping lift need to be used elsewhere—think halyard failure.

The key to our system is the ability easily and quickly stow the lazy jacks out of the way with zero hassle on the boom.

The only thing I would consider changing, is placement of the upper blocks. Having the blocks on the spreader would make use even easier, but I suspect one would lose the extra topping lift feature.

Hi Michael,

Each to there own, but I really don’t like the idea of using Amsteel in this application.

Every rigging system on a boat has a weakest point: The item that will break if the system is overstressed. In my view, in a lazyjack system, that weakest point should be the line itself. By using Amsteel you are increasing the chance that if something snags, say when shaking out a reef, that something, like the mainsail itself, will be badly damaged, rather than the lazyjack breaking.

Its the same danger I see where cruising boat owners have gone over to high modulus sails and sheets and have unknowlingly created a system where, in an overload situation, something truly catastrophic will happen like a winch being torn from the deck, rather than the sail ripping or the sheet breaking.

Dave Benjamin

Great article John. I’m bookmarking it to share with customers, especially the ones who think they need the Dutchman system. Don’t even get me started on why I don’t like that system, and I’ve yet to see a sailmaker put it on his or her own boat. The one argument for the integrated cover is when you have a boom well out of reach. Booms being out of reach could be a topic for another article. I am really not keen on having a boom that requires a stepladder but they’re increasingly common, particularly on the cruising cats. Whatever cover is employed, it should be easy to use. I’ve shared anchorages where some boats have left their mains unprotected for a week or more. It’s good for my business since sails can only absorb so much UV and they need to be replaced, but it’s such an easy way to extend the life of the mainsail.

Thanks for the endorsement of the piece.

I had not thought of the issue of a boom that is too high to reach. But then, as you say, that could inspire a whole rant all of its own!

David Nutt

On Danza we use a similar lazy jack system but we always run our lazy jacks forward when sailing. Using 1″ ss tubing I fabricated a rack that fastens to each side of the boom increasing the with of the boom to 18″. This runs from 6′ aft of the mast to 4′ from the aft end of the boom and gives a wide platform on which the sail lays when furled. It also provides lots of room for the foot of the sail when reefed. Everything is done at the mast and can be done by one person and even more easily with two. Our mizzen boom is higher than I like in order to accommodate the cockpit awning system so we use a Doyle stack pack there with all-day-every-day lazy jacks and it is great. Minor differences from John and Phylis’s system but the both work well and are fundamentally simple. And John, next time I sail I am going to reassess the mast block placement as fouling the upper battens on the mizzen while hoisting has always been an issue….

Sounds like a really interesting idea, sort of a home brewed Park Avenue boom. I have long lusted after a Hall Spars V boom, but my banker does not share my infatuation. It sounds like you have figured out a way to have many of the advantages at a fraction of the cost.


I am not a full time voyager but have sailed several thousand ocean miles with the Dutchman system without a problem. Have I just been lucky or do the problems only surface with long term ocean voyaging?

The best description for Dutchman is a solution in search of a problem. If you read the website for the product it claims it’s the answer because it won’t ever hang up the way conventional lazy jacks can. Truth is we’ve used retractable lazy jacks for decades and that’s simply not an issue. It introduces inordinate complication and cost. You have to punch holes in a perfectly good sail and install vastly overpriced discs. The sail cover has to be modified or built to accommodate the lines. The lines themselves can break. You can’t re-use the system when you change your mainsail. You basically buy it twice. I’ve compared the cost of setting up a main for use with Dutchman versus the cost of a complete new sail cover and integrated lazy jacks. It’s closer than you’d think.

At the end of the day, it’s just a lousy value IMHO. You’re paying an incredible amount of money for some injected molded crap that costs pennies to produce and some monofilament weedwhacker line. For far less money you can have an uber-reliable set of retractable lazy jacks that will work every time and you don’t have to buy the system a second time when you replace the mainsail.

Dick Stevenson

Dave, Agree in all your concerns and another point re the Dutchman system: Those I have coached in accomplishing downwind reefing/furling of the main have felt that doing so puts too much strain on their mono-filament control lines as the sail gets pushed forward dramatically (but not problematically) in the initial stages of the process. This can be mitigated somewhat by keeping tension on the reef outhauls as the sail is brought down (keeping the sail more in the plane of the boom/mast) but certainly adds another complication. Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

John, Nice article and agree on all particulars: set up, raising through the LJs, height of attachment on mast, dead-ending, etc. Two additional points: for smaller boats, we (40 foot cutter) have used a 2 fall LJ system rather than 4 fall for decades without problem. We changed to 2 fall when we went with fully battened mains. I also think of my LJ system as a back-up topping lift to keep the boom from becoming dangerous to boat and people if the topping lift fails. I do not have a boom support with the vang. I have seen a number of LJ designs, commercial and homemade, where the lines are strong enough to hold the sail, but may not be up to holding up the boom in the event of a TL failure. If wished, it is easy to cover this base on initial design. My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Good point on a two fall system for smaller boats, particularly for those with full battens. Fits in well with your great point below too.

John, There is an over-arching theme on your suggestions which I believe to be under-appreciated. Your LJ system report is a very good example as many people might read it, agree with its thrust and points, but not appreciate just how much simpler it makes everyday life on a boat. And simpler means safe and secure when all else is messy. Most of us are inveterate fussers so that making adjustments, fussing, is right in line with our character. It is my take that the more miles put on your boat, the less fussing one wants. Fussing is also prone to error and fatigue. I look for what I refer to as no-brainer systems. It may be the growing older, but I appreciate no-brainers more and more. And having developed the same LJ system and used it over long periods and many miles, its robust simplicity and no-brainer aspects (design and forget) appeal. Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Brilliant point, very well put, and exactly my thinking. I have noticed over the years that there is an inverse relationship between number of miles a voyager has sailed and the level of complication of the gear and systems on their boat. More on that here .

John, You mention sail covers in the article with a suggestion to stay away from the built in covers with good reasons to back that up. There are two other considerations that argue (for me) against the built in sail covers. The first is that when closed up and zipped they are in a catch-rain configuration (high sides and trough in the middle). Because of this the sail becomes wet and stays wet after rain. Either (or both) the zipper down the middle allows water through or the material does (the usual cloth for this is not waterproof or is not waterproof for long). Then the cover keeps the sailcloth from drying. The second complaint is that these systems use cloth that is not UV proof or not for very long. You might say the same complaint can be levelled at conventional sailcovers and you would be right. I believe one of sailmaker’s best kept secrets (please confirm if I am correct) is the awareness that Sunbrella and its many clones let UV through and loose UV protection every year. This means that within a few short years your UV protection for your expensive sail cloth (and its stitching) is compromised. This happens well before the integrity of the sail cloth and its stitching start to make one think about a new cover. And, of course, this happens more rapidly in the areas where you need UV protection the most. Our solution was to have our sail cover made out of vinylized Sunbrella (this has some proprietorial name which escapes me right now). This killed 2 birds actually. Not only is the material completely opaque keeping all UV at bay, but it is completely waterproof so the sail remains dry even in the very wet weather that England brought us last season. At 8 years of age it hardly looks brand new, but still does the same functions it was originally designed to accomplish. The only down side is that the overall storage package is a bit heavier and bulkier. Lastly, I am fairly diligent about sail covers, but I do admit to not deploying mine when we get in late and intend to leave the next day. Other than fostering good habits, are there other reasons for your putting the cover on in those circumstances? My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

That’s interesting. I have always used plain Sunbrella and have never really noticed any deterioration in the sail due to sun shining through it, but that does not make you wrong to worry about it. Also, we replace our cover about every five years, so that may be helping.

I guess this is one of those classic trade off situations in that I have always worried that a waterproof sailcover would prevent the sail from drying properly when it has been stowed wet, or when water trickles through the holes where the lazyjacks exit. Humm…on reflection, I think your concern may be more valid than mine. Humm, again…bottom line, I really don’t know.

The reason we are so diligent—Oh, OK, anal retentive—is that in the north, even just Maine, it will often be light for several hours after we get in and the sun will rise many hours before we get up. Having said that, in the fall, when the days are shorter, we are not quite so careful.

John, I suspect 5 years in northern latitudes one may not see enough loss of UV protection in a sail cover to degrade the sail itself noticeably, although I suspect it is occurring. Dan Neri (in his excellent book, “The Complete Guide to Sail Care and Repair”) talks of a Caribbean winter, Maine summer boat whose mainsail not only had a mainsail cover, but had its aft half covered once again much of the time by a large cockpit awning. Four years of this had the forward half of the sail degraded, but not the aft (and only on the upper folds). regarding damp sails, I am fortunate to be living aboard so it is very rare to put a cover on a damp/wet sail. No longer do I have to cover the sail and leave the boat to go to work . Finally, I would not describe you as anal-retentive. Too often, discipline and good habits generate ridicule in the world at large, and, to my observation, most powerfully from those with little discipline and markedly poor habits. Thanks again for your thoughts

That makes sense.

One thing I can add from my days as a sailmaker, back when the world was young and so was I, is that it is generally better to stow a sail a bit wet, particularly one that is bent on, than try and dry it out by leaving the sail cover off, or worse still, as you see some do, hoist it to flap-dry.

The point being that a bit of mildew, while unsightly, has pretty much no effect on the useful life of a modern synthetic sail, whereas flapping and UV are a sailmakers’ best friends.


D Faivet Sur le HANSE 400 ( 40 pieds) c est un bateau sur-toilé en GV, sur lazy jack , j ai fait rajouter une 3eme prise de ris, il est toutefois pas possible de ramener les manoeuvres automatiquement au cockpit, ( je navigue en equipage réduit souvent seul pour manoeuvrer, il est necessaire pour affaler ma GV de ce positionner au pieds de mats et d aider manuellement la GV a descendre , et bien entendu mettre le pilote automatique dans l axe du vent, la manœuvre doit etre rapide et peut etre délicate par grand vent lorsque l on est seul, j ai installe un frein de bôme par sécurité, le système globale n est pas performant, c est pourquoi la lecture de cet article en vu d amélioration m a intéressé Cordialement Ulysse

James Dylewski

John Would you please clarify the lazy jack upper line lengths . I know the height above the boom for blocks but the lines that hold them up two going to one line to mast . if the foot is 16 ‘ and the hoist is 48′ that puts the blocks 5′ above the boom and if the dead end on the mast is 20’-24’max so I guessed that I need a line from mast to eye splice and the eye splice to 2 lines to blocks those are the ones I am confused about. How far aft of the mast should the eye splice be ? Is it 50% of the foot? Thank You James Dylewski

Just measure so that the attachment point on the mast is about (and no higher) than 50% of the luff length as measured from the gooseneck. The length of the two legs that end in the block are not really critical. Make them say about 25% of the foot length with the aft one slightly longer so the blocks are level, and you should be good. You can also click on the picture at the top of the post to make it bigger, which should help clarify things.

Let me know if that doesn’t make it clear, and I will have another go.

Clifford Kurz

John, Not sure if commenting now, a year and half later, is appropriate or efficient. But I could not find any other posting close to my question. How does one set up a trysail ready for hoisting after two or three reefs are not enough reduction in sail? it seems to me that the Lazyjacks will get in the way. The lazyjacks are up when you attach the trysail to its dedicated track and halyard. Trysail is in its bag at the foot of the mast. The undeployed trysail and its sheets are outside of the lazyjack system. When it is hoisted and sheeted in, it is inside the lazyjack system. I am picturing a bit of a tangle. Bringing the lazyjacks forward before hoisting seems not to solve the problem since they would cross the trysail track and still be in the way. You can probably tell that I have not yet hoisted my trysail! I am planning on doing so this spring when the cover is off and I am in the water. So I am anticipating as I plan for sheet attachment points and angles. If the answer to this question is already contained in another place on AAC, please lead me to it. I searched and could not find it. Thanks, Clifford

Hi Clifford,

Great question. You are right, the lazyjacks are an issue. What we do is slack the port (same size as the storm trysail track) off to the point that the can gather the whole bundle (boat hook) and loop it over a winch on the mast and pull tight. We then run the sheet between the bundled lazyjacks and the boom.

At this point we can hoist the trysail through between the bundle of lazyjacks and the boom. Once hoisted the trysail track is above the bundle.

Of course the key to all of this is practicing it at the mooring and then documenting the procedure with photos and text in the boat’s manual.

Thanks, John. Okay, let’s see if I have the picture. The sequence is what is important. The trysail is on the track at the deck and the halyard is attached. Everything, including the sheet(s), is in the bag ready to be deployed. There are two reefs (I have only two, taking 30% and 60% down with each). Time to deploy the trysail. Douse the reefed main. Tie it to the boom in a couple of places? Pull the lazyjacks forward to hook on a winch on the mast. Aren’t they going over the trysail track? What is different between your picture and mine. Perhaps, because the trysail is so small (but made of relatively heavy clothe!), it will fit up through the slot between the mast and the lazyjacks. But it is blowing like crazy! That is why we have applied the KISS(weetheart) principle. Help how do I hoist? Also, what is powering the boat if I have taken down the reefed main? Is the storm jib or staysail enough? I need to keep the boat moving to maintain steerage, right? Thanks, John Clifford

First issue, don’t take the main down first, or at least I would not. Rather, hoist the trysail next to the main. This gets rid of a lot of the problems because either the trysail is sheltered by the main, or it goes up plastered to the main. Of course, for this to work, you need a separate trysail halyard, which we have.

And yes, you are right, all of these things are a challenge when it’s screaming. Key is having really good practiced procedure inlace before you need it.

Okay, raise the trysail before dousing the main. But what about the lazyjacks being in the way, or are they? Are they not crossing over the trysail track? Clifford

Andrew Craig-Bennett

Thank you! I had never thought of hoisting the trysail with the mainsail still set, because in every boat I have sailed before the one I have now, , such a thing was impossible. But now I have a spare halyard and a full length track. Brilliant!

Further to my above, the best option if you don’t have a separate storm trysail halyard is to use the motor to maintain stearage way while changing to the trysail.

See this chapter for more.

I do indeed have a separate trysail halyard. My question remains: how do you hoist the trysail through/past the lazyjacks, as described above? The lazyjacks cross over the trysail track and the path of the trysail as it is hoisted. What am I missing? Clifford

The lazyjacks are hooked around a winch forward of the trysail track so the sail hoists between the lazyjacks and the boom/mast. That’s why it’s important to reave the sheet between the two too.

Just went for a walk and realized that I have, I think, confused myself…not surprising that I confused you!

As I remember, we bring the lazy jacks forward on the port side and tie them, bunched up, on the reefing horn. The result is that they are between the main and storm trysail track so that the trysail hoists outside and to port of both sets of lazyjacks.

Having said that, it’s five years since I have practiced this, so I need to verify the way it works on the boat, and also check the boat’s manual,

Bill Attwood

Hi John I wonder why you decided on a splice for he top line, fixing the individual lengths of its 2 legs (like an inverted “Y”) rather than having the legs as a single line running hrough a block or alu ring. Is there any disadvantage to allowing the 2 legs to self-adjust? Yours aye Bill

Have another look at the pictures. Key point is that the lines pass through blocks on the boom, so they self adjust that way. Adding another set of blocks is added expense and complication without changing anything. And doing away with the blocks on the boom would prevent us from running the jacks forward to the mast.

Hi John Thanks for the reply, but I obviously didn’t phrase my question right. Unfortunately having another look at the pictures doesn’t help, as my question relates to “the single line just above the picture”. You comment that making a “splice in braid to marry up the two lower legs” is difficult. My question, I hope clear this time, is whether it might not be easier and cheaper to replace the splice with an Antal ring, with the two lower legs being a continuous line. The rest of your set-up is absolutely clear and looks excellent. Yours aye Bill

That’s what I’m trying to say, because of the blocks on the boom the four legs of our lazyjacks automatically achieve the same tension and that tension can be adjusted simply by tightening of loosening the forward leg. Adding blocks at the point where the two top legs branch off would not do anything useful and would increase chafe the chances of something fouling said blocks a long way out of reach.

Look at the second picture down (click on the photo to make is bigger.) and follow the forward leg from where it cleats on the boom to where is dead ends about one third in from the boom aft end and you will see that it is all one line that self adjusts. (Click on the photo to make is bigger.)

Having said that, yes, using a ring would be easier than the splice, but I guess my thinking is that this has worked for going on 100,000 miles so “if it works, don’t fix it” would be my approach. The law of unintended consequences lives in sailboat rigs as I found out when I used a lighter line and it jammed horribly behind a batten car necessitating a trip up the mast (see post). I can see the same kind of thing happening with a ring. My mantra: simplify, simplify, simplify.

Michael Sanders

Hi John, What do you call it when you splice two lines to one? And how is it done? A quick search of the google turned up nothing. I appreciate the advise to have a qualified rigger perform the union, but I am curious more than anything. Thanks, -Michael

In three strand rope there are two options: a long splice or a short splice. The long is more difficult to execute, but adds less bulk, than the short. I don’t know of a splice in braid to do the same thing, but there maybe one. Splice or not, if a rope is too short, it’s probably better to buy a new piece the right length, rather than join.

If you are referring to our lazy jack system, Jay Maloney, our rigger, did a very elegant braid splice to join the two parts together, but he did mention that its a tricky one to execute well.

Stein Varjord

Hi Bill and John. I’m commenting years later than the post, but maybe it’s still useful to add a detail: I also have a fanatic love for simplicity, which is good enough reason for preferring a splice, but in this case there’s another reason to not put a ring where the line from the mast splits into two lines.

Such a ring would make the tension between them equal, but in this setup there’s another load balancing setup in the lower line. The two balancing systems will sabotage each other. There is no neutral balanced position. Balance can be found with one system at the extreme edge ant the other at the opposite extreme. This way, it will look untidy and behave unpredictably.

Now that’s something I had not thought of, and a very good point too.

Ronnie Ricca

I can attest first hand that using rings from the initial line front the mast does not work well. They are so smooth it caused the split line to move around and sometimes bringing the continuous line up to the ring which leaves a very long leg of the split line. Plus it doesn’t look uniform. I didn’t ask for them the yard did it. I have to cut them out because I can’t pry them out(tried).

We did use a type of smooth block similar to a ring for the split lines instead of small blocks. They work well. And I think will work better when I get the other part fixed.

Thanks for that corroboration. Isn’t it amazing how these small things make such a difference to overall function?

John, I don’t think I saw a mention about where and how to terminate the mast line. I understand no more than 50% of luff length. What I’m asking is should the terminations be on the mast sides or under the first spreader(so get a wider termination than the side of the mast)? Our rigs are similar in design, not size though close, so I was thinking around the first spreader. I’m just not sure where to put the pad eye. Any clarification would be helpful as I have all the gear to make it up.

Regards, Ronnie

Scratch that, I see it! I must have overlooked the wording.


Lowering the mast attachment of lazy jacks is great advice. Huge improvement.

I have a single spreader masthead sloop and the lazy jacks passed through blocks well above the spreaders. Some time ago, on the advice in this article, I lowered them to the spreaders. I also placed them outboard of the mast, about midspreader. I chose to keep the termination at the mast base and I stow the lazy jacks forward when covering the sail.

When raising the main sail, if an upper batten (full batten main) catches a leeward lazy jack, and I am on the windward side of the boom, I have to lean far to leeward to tug the leech. I plan to move the lazy jacks inboard to the mast. I suspect they will not be more likely to catch and guiding the leech may require less of a stretch on my part.

Anyway, this was a great article and I have incorporated much of it into my setup, which continues to evolve. I encourage anyone with lazy jacks high on the mast to lower them. Thanks.

Glad that helped. One thought. I really don’t like to see lazy jacks attached to spreaders, particularly outboard from the mast. I’m planning to write a post on why not, but the short reason is that a snagged lazy jack can pull the spreader out of column, which can result in it collapsing, a quick way to a dismasting.

The point being that spreaders are only intended and engineered to take compression loads, not bending.

So, I’m really glad to hear you are moving the lazy jacks off the spreaders.

Hi Stein I have just changed (I hope improved) our lazyjacks system. Your comment was also an eye-opener for me. Of course John’s system is an improvement over my old system with endless line connecting the two sides. In spite of being frustrated when the two sides became “unbalanced” , it never occured to me that John’s system solved this problem. ? Regards Bill

Rick Gleason

Thank you for your suggestions. There are certainly many ways to skin the cat.

We used a Dutchman system for years, which worked beautifully, leaving the mainsail nicely flaked ready for ties, and easy to hoist without snags, while providing helmsman visibility. It took some trial and error to adjust it properly.

A new main with 2 long + 2 battens ended the Dutchman, and eventually we migrated to lazy jacks recently. We have not found a sweet spot yet, because snags are occasional and the sail does not flake like it used to. This is a small Bristol 32′ single spreader rig with 13′ boom.

I’ll try lowering the mast attachment to below the spreaders (losing the cheek blocks) and reconfigure to this system. I’ve been tying the lazy jack boom end lines to boom sail slugs and leaving some slack in the system (which seems to work, sort of).

With this new system I will need to commit to drilling holes in the boom, which is fine if it works better, however I do like to loosen the lazy jacks to pull them forward to the jiffy reef horns to fit the sail cover (Elimination of the Dutchman made the sail cover simpler.)

I assume this system will still let me use the jiffy reef horns to store the lazy jacks? BTW We just used 1/4″ double braid with nylon eyes where necessary.

Thanks, Rick

We prefer to have zippers in the sail cover, but each to their own. If you will be regularly bringing the lazyjacks forward see the paragraph under “An Exception”.

Re-reading I saw this: “We have left enough length in this line so that we can let it run through the blocks without losing the end when we gather the lazyjacks forward to the mast.”

Hendrik Veelken

Dear John, I am fitting out a new 41 ft aluminium cutter, and I would like to follow your advice on rapid manual hoisting of the main as far as possible. My question is how do you belay the main halyard: You mention that there should be no clutch between the 8 ft-high halyard outlet and the winch. The halyard stays on the winch all the time? If it is self-hauling, what happens if the loose end becomes accidentally pulled out from the winch crown? If not self-hauling, do you have cleats or clutches below the winch? So it cannot be used for anything besides the main? Sincerely Hendrik (Calling from the Netherlands so I hope my nautical terms do not cause confusion…)

Hi Hendrik,

Good question. We have a standard old fashioned horn cleat just below the dedicated self tailing (hauling) main halyard winch so we cleat off to that. Also makes a great place to hang the coil of halyard.

Terence Thatcher

I am redoing my lazy jacks, which work but are not as elegant as yours. My first question has to do with the upper legs to the single line to the mast. Need that be a firm attachment, using a fancy splice? How about an eye in the single line with the legs run through it? Or even another block? Second, are those upper legs the same length on each side of their attachment to the single mast attachment line? Finally and separately, is your dedicated trysail hailard full hoist to mast top. I have two main hailards, but we have always used the spare to carry, at the ready, a Lifesling lifting tackle. I sort of hate to give that up, even though we always are supposed to wear harnesses with short tethers off shore. But if a crew member slipped off the boat under the lifelines, we might need the lifting tackle to bring him or her aboard. But I take your point about hoisting the trysail before striking the main.

Hi Terence,

On the LJs, yes, an eye would work, rather than the fancy splice. Don’t use blocks there though. The legs are slightly different lengths with the aft one being longer so that they end up the same hight from the boom when fully deployed—not sure it matters that much though.

On the TR halyard. No, not full hoist. It exits the mast just above where the head of the TR will be. We have a spinnaker halyard earmarked for POB recovery, but that does mean flicking it around the spreaders.

Chris Jacques

Absolutely valuable piece, along with the comments. I’d been searching for just this information in anticipation of refitting our new (to us) cutter.

Why not have a instead of a single lower line, terminated first on the port side near the mast (as I’m assuming you do), but then instead of terminating separately near the outer boom end, passing the line through a low-friction fairlead (centered on bottom of boom) and then roved back up through the upper line blocks eventually back to the cleat forward as you have it?

Our previous boat had an off the shelf Harken LJ system set up this way, and had very little adjustment issues. If not for absurd $ cost, I’d probably just go buy one!

If I understand you, you are suggesting making both sides all one line? Have I got that right? If so, I think that would make it a lot more difficult to slack off both jacks and bring the bundles forward, when necessary, for example taking the sail on and off or setting a storm trysail. Also, I think the line would chafe where it passed under the boom aft.

But, most always with these things, the only way to know for sure is try it. You can always revert to our way if it does not work.

Ok; good reason. Thanks. Perhaps the prior-mentioned Harken version didn’t have significant friction issues because it was a simpler 2-leg system on a relatively short boom (higher-aspect) rig. I’m sticking with your version this time.

I’m going to copy your system. I wonder if I can use low friction rings in place of the bullet blocks?

I have not tried it, but my guess is it should work fine with rings and might even be an improvement. (Low friction rings were not a thing when I originally designed it.)

Wilson Fitt

We have a two legged system with one lower line that runs from a cleat on the bottom of the boom a few feet aft of the gooseneck, up through a ring on the part that comes down from the mast, back down under the boom and through a little padeye, back up the other side and down to the same cleat. Super simple and works fine except that I should move the upper attachment on the mast down a little way.

Harald Braun

Hi John, is it possible to get a picture of the upper part of your lazy jack system?

Possibly, but it would require a big search of my photo stock to find it, and I’m not sure what it would tell you that this sentence does not:

We dead-end the lazyjack upper line, which combines to a single line just above the photograph, to a pad eye each side of the mast with a  cow hitch  using a soft (no thimble) eye splice.

What is it, specificaly, that you need clarified?

Mike McCollough

I am a newbie and have enjoyed following all of your articles and their comments. I am trying to install a lazy jack system on my Pearson Triton. I have researched the web looking for instructions on how to install. Surprising to me there aren’t very many. There are a few sources discussing the mast side line lengths, ratios. I have been unable to find any sources discussing the line lengths, ratios, for the boom side of the system. There were hints in a you tube video, but part 2 never happened (The comments said the author was in a motorcycle accident) I have tried, using strings and clamps, to determine the necessary lengths, I have been unsuccessful as of this date. I am interested in guidance on the boom side line lengths, but what am I am more interested in, is why this part of the lazy jack system hasn’t been discussed.

I’m confused since my article above has exact instructions on locations for the boom side terminations and blocks expressed as a percentage of mainsail foot length.

It also includes photographs showing the set up and the location for the mast termination expressed as a percentage of mainsail luff length.

Have another read through and then if you still have specific questions I will answer them in the comments.

I agree with you, the mast, and boom termination points for either for either 3 or 4 lines, are well documented. My question is about the line lengths between the mast and boom termination points. I am jury rigging the line setup by using ring clamps on the boom and paracord, for the boom lines to mast line connection, to find a best fit for my configuration.

I see what you mean. I have updated the article to fix that. Thanks for the heads up.

William Murdoch

Mike you may be interested in US Patent 5,327,842 which describes a lazy jack system that pulls forward to the mast to allow its use with a standard sail cover. The patent also provides references to previous work in the field both patented and printed.

  • Lazy jacks: Simplifying sailboat handling

Sailing is an exhilarating experience that allows you to harness the power of the wind and explore the open waters. However, managing the sails on a sailboat can be a complex task, especially when it comes to lowering and securing them. That's where the ingenious system of "lazy jacks" comes into play. In this article, we'll delve into the world of lazy jacks, exploring what they are, how they work, and why they are a must-have for any sailing enthusiast.

What are lazy jacks?

Lazy jacks are an essential part of a sailboat's rigging system. They are a set of ropes or lines that are strategically rigged on both sides of the sail's boom, creating a cradle-like structure. The primary purpose of lazy jacks is to assist in the lowering and flaking (folding) of the sail when it needs to be stowed or reefed.

The lazy jack system

The lazy jack system consists of several components, including lines, blocks, and sometimes additional hardware. These components work together to make sail handling more manageable, especially when sailing shorthanded.

How do lazy jacks work?

Lazy jacks work by guiding the sail onto the boom as it is lowered. This controlled descent prevents the sail from billowing and flapping in the wind, making it easier to handle. The lines forming the lazy jacks create a funnel-like structure that directs the sailcloth toward the boom.

Benefits os using lazy jacks 

1. Ease of handling 

One of the primary advantages of lazy jacks is that they simplify sail handling. Whether you're dropping the main sail or reefing it in a strong breeze, lazy jacks ensure a smooth and controlled descent.

2. Reduced crew requirements 

Lazy jacks enable single-handed sailors or small crews to manage larger sails efficiently. You won't need a large crew to handle the sails effectively.

3. Prevents accidents 

Lazy jacks help prevent accidents by keeping the sail neatly on the boom. This reduces the risk of entanglement and injury when lowering the sail.

4. Extended sail life 

With lazy jacks in place, the sail is less likely to be mishandled or damaged during lowering and flaking. This extends the life of your sails, saving you money in the long run.

Read our top notch articles on topics such as sailing, sailing tips and destinations in our Magazine .

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Types of lazy jacks

There are various types of lazy jacks available, catering to different sailboat sizes and configurations. The two main types are the "traditional" lazy jacks and the "stack pack" or "sail pack" systems.

Traditional lazy jacks

Traditional lazy jacks consist of two lines on each side of the sail. These lines are typically made of low-stretch material and are rigged through blocks on the mast or spreaders. They offer a simple and cost-effective solution for smaller sailboats.

Stack pack systems

Stack pack systems are more advanced and incorporate a dedicated sail cover. They provide a neat and tidy storage solution for the sail when it's lowered. This type is popular among cruising sailors who value convenience.

Installing lazy jacks

Installing lazy jacks on your sailboat can be a worthwhile investment. While the process may vary depending on your boat's configuration, it typically involves attaching blocks to the mast, running lines through them, and securing them to the boom. It's recommended to consult your sailboat's manufacturer or a professional rigger for proper installation.

In the world of sailing, lazy jacks are a game-changer. They simplify sail handling, reduce the need for a large crew, and enhance safety. Whether you're an experienced sailor or a novice, incorporating lazy jacks into your sailboat's rigging system can make your sailing adventures more enjoyable and stress-free.

So what are you waiting for? Take a look at our range of charter boats and head to some of our favourite  sailing destinations.

I am ready to help you with booking a boat for your dream vacation. Contact me.

Denisa Nguyenová

Denisa Nguyenová

Don’t Sweat It – Douse and Reef with a Lazy Jack System

By Danny Cruz

Harken Lazy Jack System

About Danny Cruz

Publisher of FloatWays, Danny Cruz is resourceful creative designer, lover of the ocean and all things that float.

What Makes FloatWays Unique For You and Why You Should Stick Around

We love boats! We love everything about boats! FloatWays is dedicated to the art of boating and sailing. Whether it be in the ocean or the lake, we are devoted to the lifestyle and all the joys that come from being on the water. We are people who have practically been raised aboard boats. At the same time, FloatWays believes in being humble, friendly and down to earth (er … More

Sunglasses Guide for Boats

At FloatWays we pay a lot of attention to the visual aspect of the water activities in which we participate. This means we are focused on enjoying our outdoor life by making sure we have the best optical clarity and sun protection we can get. Not only that, but we like to look good while doing it. We've created this sunglasses guide for that very reason. As we look into what the market has to offer for functional and stylish sunglasses and review them on FloatWays, we'll … More

How do you use a Lazy Jack?

Do you ever wonder what exactly a lazy jack is and how it can help you sail better? If so, we’ve got all the answers you need.

Are you struggling with hauling down the mainsail? Or want to make difficult weather conditions a little more manageable?

If so, we're here to teach you everything you need to know about using a lazy jack. Basically, all you need to use a lazy jack is a line, rope thimbles or blocks, some pad eyes, and some basic sailing knowledge.

Within this article, we will cover the following:

  • What is a lazy jack?
  • How do you use a lazy jack?
  • Using a lazy jack to hoist the mainsail
  • Reasons to get a lazy jack
  • How much does a lazy jack cost?
  • Downsides of lazy jacks

What is a Lazy Jack?

Simply, a lazy jack is a type of rig which can make lowering or raising the mainsail easier.

Lazy jacks are basically webs of lines which run between the mast and the boom, preventing the lowered sail from falling onto the deck. Of course, the exact look of the lazy jack will depend on the ship construction and the budget.

One main benefit of using a lazy jack is that it can help you to save time, navigate better, and can stop you from fighting so much with your mainsail. You should note, however, that they should never take the full weight of the sake and boom - instead, they should just keep the sail and the stack centered.

Now, onto one of the most important parts: how do you use a lazy jack?

How Do You Use a Lazy Jack?

Lazy jacks are very simple to use. Simply, you will need to rig the line networks along each side of the mainsail from several points on the boom, or you can use a stack pack at around 60% of the mast's height.

Generally, you will take the lines called 'legs' and join them with the single lines which are called 'risers', coming together to form two upside-down Y shapes.

However, there are various other ways of rigging the lazy jack legs, depending on personal preference and what you are planning to do. For example, you can join the legs to the risers with rings or blocks, or even tie them together. This then creates a space between the two lazy jack sets which is known as the 'pocket'.

Using a stack pack can make things a little easier, as this modern type of sail cover is attached to the boom and can then zip closed, protecting the sail when it's not in use. When you use a lazy jack with a stack pack, you should tie them to the stack pack in order to help support it.

Using a Lazy Jack to Hoist the Mainsail

Specifically, you are going to want to follow the upcoming instructions to properly use a lazy jack:

  • Keep the boat steady with the bow facing the wind
  • Begin to loosen the mainsheet and then hoist the mainsail
  • When the legs join the risers, you're going to want to keep an eye on the sail. You should watch to make sure that it doesn't snag, and if the wind pushes the sail towards one of the legs, you should steer towards the wind. Once the sail is luffing evenly in the pocket, you can continue.
  • If a batten gets snagged, you will need to immediately stop hoisting. Then, lower the sail until the line is clear of the batten, and steer toward the wind until the sail has been pushed back into the pocket

Reasons to Get a Lazy Jack

There are plenty of reasons why you might considering purchasing a lazy jack, one of the most simple being that it just makes things a little easier.

A lazy jack can help you to save time and hassle, especially when you find yourself in unfavorable weather conditions whilst trying to keep a steady course. If there's dense traffic, wind, or the sail is a struggle to keep under control, then you're going to wish that you had a lazy jack.

Especially for solo sailors, a lazy jack can be a lifesaver. It can help you to navigate out of a dangerous situation faster and can give you the space to focus on steering the boat safely.

Not to mention that getting a lazy jack doesn't have to be a complicated affair - they can be just as basic or as advanced as you like. The most simple lazy jack will just need a line, pad eyes, and some blocks or rope thimbles.

How Much Does a Lazy Jack Cost?

The price of a lazy jack depends on two main factors: whether you will be purchasing a commercial lazy jack or simply making one yourself.

Whilst commercial lazy jacks come with pre-packaged ease, they can also come with a hefty price tag. If your sailboat is on the larger side than one of these kits could easily cost thousands of dollars - and then you'd still need to pay someone else to install it.

The DIY lazy jack method, along with being cheap (usually less than 50 dollars), can also be quite simple. There are plenty of information guides online which go into detail on how exactly to build your own lazy jacks, and some marine companies will even give you step-by-step guides. We recommend this one .

Downsides of Lazy Jacks

There are very few downsides of getting a lazy jack, although there are some potential issues that you should be aware of before installing one.

One of the most common issues with lazy jacks is that sometimes, when you raise your mainsail then the lazy jack can get in the way. However, this is very simple to fix: all you need to do is either use caution when steering or lash up a low-friction ring to angle the lazy jack away from the mast.

Along with that, the stack pack could add windage which affects sailing performance, but casual sailors shouldn't need to worry too much about this.

In general, however, a lazy jack can be a great addition to your sailboat, helping you to navigate the world's waters with ease.

What Does the Jib Do When Sailing?

Galley equipment buying guide, how to restore chalky gelcoat.


  1. How To Make Lazy Jacks Easy To Use

    diy lazy jack for sailboat

  2. How To Make Lazy Jacks Easy To Use

    diy lazy jack for sailboat

  3. How To Make Lazy Jacks Easy To Use

    diy lazy jack for sailboat

  4. Simple Lazy Jacks for my Small Sailboat

    diy lazy jack for sailboat

  5. How To Install Lazy Jacks in 2020

    diy lazy jack for sailboat

  6. How To Install Lazy Jacks

    diy lazy jack for sailboat


  1. EP 0

  2. Lazy E Sailing Dinghy

  3. DIY How To Make EASY Clay Boat

  4. Ep6 Sailboat Cheap and Easy Lazyjacks

  5. Home made Lazy Jacks on Flicka 20 sailboat

  6. Dyneema Lazy Jacks, DIY!


  1. Lazyjacks for Your Mainsail

    Depending on the size of your boat, you'll want to use 1/4in to 3/8in prestretched polyester doublebraid for your lazyjack lines. Don't use nylon—it stretches when wet so the lines flop around and don't hold the bunt of the sail so well. I used 1/4in Sta-Set for the risers, and 5/16in for the lower lines—simply because I didn't have ...

  2. How To Make Lazy Jacks Easy To Use

    Easy DIY: A quick bit of rigging makes it so that battens don't catch on lazy jacks when raising the main. Step-by-step instructions with photos. ... The sail battens catch on the lazy jacks and you have to raise the sail a few inches at a time and time the ups perfectly as the lazy jack flips out of the way so the batten doesn't catch.

  3. DIY Lazy-jacks: Mainsail Tamers

    Lazy jacks made of three-strand nylon for the average boat can be assembled for about $91. The same lazy jacks in Sta-Set would cost about $160. Don't let cost be the only deciding factor; each line has advantages and disadvantages. Three-strand nylon is simple to splice, requiring no tools and little knowledge.

  4. Simple Lazy Jacks for my Small Sailboat.

    Paul VanNess shows you how to make a simple set of lazy jacks for a small sailboat aboard "Rainbow Dash, a SanJuan 21 MKII.Music: All music on this channel ...

  5. How to make your own lazy-jacks

    Anchor point: halfway up the mast. Pulleys: at 1/3 and 2/3 of the height of the lazy-jacks. transfer the measurements to scale on a grid paper to deduce the necessary end lengths. It is then sufficient to measure the segments of unknown length with a ruler directly on the paper. Friction rings used to replace pulleys.

  6. Lazy Jacks for Your Sailboat: Tips & Tricks

    What are Lazy Jacks? Our boat, Starry Horizons, a Fountaine Pajot Helia 44, has a stack pack for the mainsail. This stack pack attaches to the boom through a track. It closes around the sail with a zipper to keep the sail in a bundle. The lazy jacks keep the stack pack upright. The stack pack has a batten down the length of either side and ...

  7. DIY Sailboat Lazy Jacks

    On This Episode of New Salts Ignacio designs and installs our DIY Lazyjack System. Trailer Sailer Next week we will be setting up the spinnaker hardware, in...

  8. How to Rig a Lug Sail and Very Simple Lazy Jacks

    Lug sail rigging and my simple diy lazy jacks.People have asked me how I rigged my lazy jacks and how I secure or attach the blocks to the boom so I decided...

  9. What Are Sailing Lazy Jacks?

    Commercial or DIY Lazy Jacks? The first major decision you will have to make before getting a lazy jack is going to the commercial or DIY options. One of the main disadvantages of commercial lazy jacks is the cost. For larger sailboats, these kits can run up into the hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on the size of the sailboat you have.

  10. Sailing With Lazy Jacks and Stack Packs

    The stack pack (sometimes called a lazy pack or lazy bag) is a modern type of a sail cover. It is secured to the boom and zips closed at the top to protect the sail from sun damage when it's not in use. Lazy jacks can be set up with or without a stack pack. When a stack pack is present, the lazy jacks are tied to the stack pack to support it.

  11. Ezjack/lazyjack/diy what to look for?

    Feb 8, 2014. 1,300. Columbia 36 Muskegon. Oct 5, 2015. #4. Take a look at the Sailrite Stack Pack. It's lazy jacks and a sail cover combined. When you drop the sail it falls into the bag, then you just zip the top closed. The downside is the cover stays up all the time and looks funny if its a different color.

  12. How to make simple lazyjacks

    Repeat on other side of boat. Now you have a two-part lazy jack that can be eased and tightened at the mast just by sliding the rolling hitch. I have added a third part from the bowline to near the gooseneck (again with a rolling hitch) to catch the luff of the sail better. Ease the rolling hitches when the sail is up to prevent chafe. Works ...

  13. How to Install Lazy Jacks

    For the halyard on our lazy jack installation aboard Lyra, we used 55 feet each side (110 feet in total) of 1/4-inch braided Sta-Set X [1] , from New England Ropes, at a cost of $78. We used 42 feet each side (84 feet in total) of 3/16-inch braided Sta-Set X [2] for the support lines; this cost $45. The six 1/4-inch Orbit blocks [3] from ...

  14. Home Made Lazy Jack System

    Two bonus features. 1. The two main lazy jack lines can be unclipped and used as sail ties. 2. The two unclipped shock lines can be attached to halyards when cleated to the shroud cleat to pull the halyards from banging on the mast. The very aft spring line is attached and also acts as a sail tie.

  15. Lazy Jacks Installation

    Lazy Jacks Installation (Pfeiffer Marine) Part 1Are you looking to install lazy jacks for sailboats? In this video I show you the steps I made for my lazy ja...

  16. Mainsail Handling Made Easy with Lazyjacks

    Measure the distance from the upper termination point on the mast to the middle of the boom halfway between the tack and clew positions. Divide that measurement by three. Make that the length of the upper lazyjack line from the mast termination to where the legs split off. Make the forward leg length the same.

  17. Lazy jacks: Simplifying sailboat handling

    Lazy jacks are an essential part of a sailboat's rigging system. They are a set of ropes or lines that are strategically rigged on both sides of the sail's boom, creating a cradle-like structure. The primary purpose of lazy jacks is to assist in the lowering and flaking (folding) of the sail when it needs to be stowed or reefed.

  18. Do-it-Yourself Lazy Jacks ?

    It's been in use for 5 years and does the job nicely. I used nylon parachute line sold at most marine stores, two brass rings as the junction points where the lazy jacks split to the fore and aft of the boom. Two pad eyes on the under side of the boom to loop the lines. The top of the lazy jacks are tied to the spreaders along side the mast ...

  19. Don't Sweat It

    A lazy jack system on your sailboat - a classic case of form vs. function. Some say it's uncool. Some say it's the usefulness that matters. Up to you to decide. Lazy jacks are rigging lines that are fitted to the upper section of the mast and come down towards the back and middle of the boom. A properly installed system of lazy jacks are ...

  20. Dyneema Lazy Jacks, DIY!

    Finally got the Dyneema, (or is it Spectra?) to make my new Lazy Jacks. After measuring the temporary strings I had used to hold the sail pack I could then c...

  21. Super-Simple DIY lazy jacks?

    Dec 12, 2012. #2. Adam. My Lazy jacks consist of 1/4 inch yacht braid and bowline knots with the only hardware being a halyard block and a snap shackle. The attachment shows different colors for the different segments of the lines, all connections are bowline knots. Both of the upper lines (purple) are placed in the snap shackle on the halyard ...

  22. How do you use a Lazy Jack?

    Using a Lazy Jack to Hoist the Mainsail. Specifically, you are going to want to follow the upcoming instructions to properly use a lazy jack: Keep the boat steady with the bow facing the wind. Begin to loosen the mainsheet and then hoist the mainsail. When the legs join the risers, you're going to want to keep an eye on the sail.

  23. Harken Lazy Jack Kit Installation Video by Sailrite

    http://www.sailrite.com/Harken-Lazy-Jack-System-For-boats-21-to-28 Lazy jacks are designed to contain and restrain a main sail when furling and reefing. The ...