The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

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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More Articles From Online Book: Sail Handling and Rigging Made Easy:

  1. Six Reasons To Leave The Cockpit Often
  2. Don’t Forget About The Sails
  3. Your Mainsail Is Your Friend
  4. Hoisting the Mainsail Made Easy—Simplicity in Action
  5. Reefs: How Many and How Deep
  6. Reefing Made Easy
  7. Reefing From The Cockpit 2.0—Thinking Things Through
  8. Reefing Questions and Answers
  9. A Dangerous Myth about Reefing
  10. Mainsail Handling Made Easy with Lazyjacks
  11. Topping Lift Tips and a Hack
  12. 12 Reasons The Cutter Is A Great Offshore Voyaging Rig
  13. Cutter Rig—Should You Buy or Convert?
  14. Cutter Rig—Optimizing and/or Converting
  15. Cruising Rigs—Sloop, Cutter, or Solent?
  16. Sailboat Deck Layouts
  17. The Case For Roller-Furling Headsails
  18. UV Protection For Roller Furling Sails
  19. In-Mast, In-Boom, or Slab Reefing—Convenience and Reliability
  20. In-Mast, In-Boom, or Slab Reefing —Performance, Cost and Safety
  21. The Case For Hank On Headsails
  22. Making Life Easier—Roller Reefing/Furling
  23. Making Life Easier—Storm Jib
  24. Gennaker Furlers Come Of Age
  25. Swept-Back Spreaders—We Just Don’t Get It!
  26. Q&A: Staysail Stay: Roller Furling And Fixed Vs Hanks And Removable
  27. Rigid Vangs
  28. Rigging a Proper Preventer, Part 1
  29. Rigging a Proper Preventer—Part 2
  30. Amidships “Preventers”—A Bad Idea That Can Kill
  31. Keeping The Boom Under Control—Boom Brakes
  32. Downwind Sailing, Tips and Tricks
  33. Downwind Sailing—Poling Out The Jib
  34. Setting and Striking a Spinnaker Made Easy and Safe
  35. Ten Tips To Fix Weather Helm
  36. Running Rigging Recommendations—Part 1
  37. Running Rigging Recommendations—Part 2
  38. Two Dangerous Rigging Mistakes
  39. Rig Tuning, Part 1—Preparation
  40. Rig Tuning, Part 2—Understanding Rake and Bend
  41. Rig Tuning, Part 3—6 Steps to a Great Tune
  42. Rig Tuning, Part 4—Mast Blocking, Stay Tension, and Spreaders
  43. Rig Tuning, Part 5—Sailing Tune
  44. 12 Great Rigging Hacks
  45. 9 Tips To Make Unstepping a Sailboat Mast Easier
  46. Cruising Sailboat Spar Inspection
  47. Cruising Sailboat Standing Rigging Inspection
  48. Cruising Sailboat Running Rigging Inspection
  49. Cruising Sailboat Rig Wiring and Lighting Inspection
  50. Cruising Sailboat Roller Furler and Track Inspection
  51. Download Cruising Sailboat Rig Checklist
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Erik de Jong

Hi John,

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.

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.


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

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.

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.

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….


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?

Dave Benjamin

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

Dick Stevenson

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

Dick Stevenson

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

Dick Stevenson

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

Dick Stevenson

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


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

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

Clifford Kurz

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.

Clifford Kurz

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 Kurz

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?

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!

Clifford Kurz

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?

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 Attwood

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

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.

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.

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.


Ronnie Ricca

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.


Ronnie Ricca

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.

Bill Attwood

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.

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

Rick Gleason

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?
(Calling from the Netherlands so I hope my nautical terms do not cause confusion…)

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.

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!

Chris Jacques

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.

Andrew Craig-Bennett

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

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?

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.

Mike McCollough

Hi John,

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.


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.