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:
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
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.
Oboe, 40-ft cat
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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,
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
(Calling from the Netherlands so I hope my nautical terms do not cause confusion…)
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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:
What is it, specificaly, that you need clarified?
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.
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.
Hi John, how did you manufacture the top line split (what is just above the image), where the top line splits into the two legs? Is there a block as well, or is this some kind of fixed splice?
It’s a fixed splice. I got my friend and master rigger Jay Maloney to do it since I kind of suck at double braid splicing. That said, it could be made with linked eye splices easily enough, although not quite so elegant as Jay’s splice.