It is my understanding that Lazy Jacks were originally used on
Gaff rigged boats as a means of catching that heavy gaff on top of the
mainsail when furling and or reefing. It was also used by commercial
fishing boats as a means of bleeding off headway while the fisherman was
tending his nets. A flick of the halyard and the sail/gaff were down and
out of the way. The vessel slowly came to a stop. Extremely beneficial
when sailing into a slip.
Many of the early cruisers took this
idea and modified it to fit the Bermuda rig.
Pioneer cruisers such as Eric Hiscock and Larry Pardey set them up on their vessels
and cruised many thousands of trouble free miles.
I may have taken their
ideas a step
farther by incorporating a topping lift into the system
to aid in reefing.
Using the setup I have on Flying Cloud, I can take
in a reef in less than a minute and without any fuss what-so-ever.
never have to tie-in any reef ties unless I'm down to number three reef.
Which, by the way, I do not believe in reefing a mainsail that deep.
When conditions deteriorate to that point, it's time for a sail that is
designed and constructed for that job. The storm trysail. I want to save
Some of the complaints I have read online say that Lazy Jacks chafe the
sail. This can be caused by a number of things. Many of the kits use
small blocks or rings to attach the various legs or vertical lines to each other. They
can really be hard on the sewn seams of a sail.
Another reason is the
type of line used. Braid line is not that great for this application. In
addition I've seen them drawn so taught that they would actually carve
their image into the mainsail while under way. Other short comings are
from just poor design.
There are complaints about them
being in the way when you decide to reef. Another common issue is the
sail cover or Stack Pack. If done correctly, they will streamline the
reefing process and the only time I want to take them down is when I set
the storm trysail.
Once I install my Lazy Jacks, I never touch them.
They are self tending and require no attention what-so-ever.
So let me address some of these issues
before I show how I build mine.
By the way, before you read on,
this article shows how I do
Lazy Jacks on all my boats. I
have figured out what works for me
and these are my opinions. There are many approaches to doing the same
job on a variety of vessels. So use this info to find out what works for
Chafe: Any time something such as a metal ring
or worse yet a small block is used you are asking for problems. They add
weight to the lines and if you leave everything loose (as it should be)
they slap against the sail doing damage and making a lot of noise in the
process. Even with these rings/blocks covered with leather, the mere
weight of them can cause damage eventually.
So, I splice all the
lines together and forego the added hardware. I splice lines directly
together rather than use rings or blocks. Eye splices
contribute to the same issue of having rings or blocks at these points.
Line: The line that I use is Polyester (Dacron) three strand. Not
to be confused with Nylon three strand. Three strand is easy to splice
and the Polyester has a little bit of stretch but not too much. It's
soft on the hand and therefore soft on the sail. If my splice tails get
a little fuzzy after a few years of wear, that helps the chafe problem
by acting like the old "Baggy wrinkles" used on sailing ships for chafe
prevention. Which, by the way, I still use on Flying Cloud.
Flying Cloud (41 foot ketch) and on Solita (28 foot Lyle Hess Bristol
Channel Cutter) I used 3/8 inch line. It's strong enough to hold the
folded sail and light enough to not create chafe or sail slap.
also strong enough to support the boom as a topping lift to use when
reefing. The small diameter adds very little windage when things start
Sail Cover or Stack
Pak: I am not a believer in the Stack Pak since it
really is nothing more than a deep reefed sail. I have seen them in
strong winds and they are capable of powering a boat when you don't want
In heavy weather when hove-to or running down wind, the added
windage can actually drive the boat when you are trying to stop or slow
it down. Dockside I have seen them do serious damage to boats in high
winds. In any sort of strong wind I want to get rid of anything that
Sail covers need a little special attention when
using Lazy Jacks. Take a look at the photos in this article for some
ideas on cover design. A sail cover stored in a locker offers no windage.
A baggy sail cover catches wind. I prefer mine to wrap the sail tightly
to the the boom. It may not look as cool as my neighbors Yacht, but my
sail stays in place on the boom.
Reefing: I use jiffy reefing on all my boats and that system
requires a topping lift on the outer end of the boom. My system
incorporates the main line of the Lazy Jacks as a topping lift to the
boom. It also affords the ability to completely douse the Lazy Jack
system if I need to. In the photos and drawings in this article it will
be apparent how this works. I'll show the complete reefing system,
outhaul and top lift along with a couple tricks to make it all work
Be sure to look at all the photos at the bottom of this
page for ideas....
The layout of the lines:
I step back a ways
and view the mast from
the side and estimate an attachment point for the main line about two-thirds
of the way up the mast, or slightly higher. I attach a strap eye to both sides of the mast at that point.
From this point I measure down toward the aft end of the boom at a point
about three to four feet above the boom end when the sail is hoisted.
take a line and double that measurement. On each end I do a small eye splice
that the strap eye will use to hold both ends to the mast. One on the Port
side and the other on the Starboard side. I then place a small sheet block
on this line with a shackle.
Setting up the topping lift I run it from
the mast back to a cheek block on the side of the boom, up thru the cheek
block and thru the sheet block on the main Lazy Jack line. From there the
line runs down to a fixed point on the end of the boom.
Now you should be
able to stand at the mast, haul in on the top lift and raise the boom higher
than what is required to take in the deepest reef.
You should also leave
enough of a tail on the top lift line that when the boom is in it's gallows or
cradle you can lower the main Lazy Jack line enough to lay it along the top
of the boom and behind the mast.
This is a typical "topping lift" arrangement with
one exception; note that the line going thru the shackle and toward the top of the mast is
doubled. This is the main leg, or line, supporting the Lazy Jack system
Click the photo to enlarge
Click photo to enlarge
In this photo of the
mainsail system the main line (topping Lift) is depicted as well as how I
decided (on this vessel) to arrange the vertical legs of the system.
note that the main Lazy Jack line is attached quite high up the mast. If
your sail has battens, a higher attachment point will catch the battens
before they fold over the main line. Never go all the way to the top of the
mast layout is very similar to the main mast
Now we need to figure where the three vertical
legs 0r lines need to be attached.
I approach this by folding the sail port and
starboard, accordion style, as straight as possible. Fold in the opposite
direction with each sail slide. Stretch the leech out and make all the folds
as flat as possible.
Once you have started this folding process you will
need to fold the sail in the same direction every time from now on. If your first tuck
is to Port, be sure that every time you lower the sail that first tuck or
fold is to Port. All the others will alternate as they come down.
being consistent with this folding of the sail, it won't take long for the
sail to take a "memory" and want to fold exactly the same each time the
halyard is let fly. Basically you are training the sail to fold the same way
all the time.
Letting the halyard "fly" is very effective in taking speed
off the boat in a hurry. For instance; while sailing into a dock. Lube the
sail track and slides with Silicon Spray Lubricant and the sail will come
down very fast and fold itself on top of the boom. only use silicon lube or
paraffin wax in this application.
Now to determine the vertical lines of the system.
I take a close look at the sail as it's lowered. Watching for areas where
the sail wants to bulk or gather in some sort of bundle. Near the luff I
determine a vertical line spaced aft of the mast that will intersect the
area where the sail tries to bulk up, At that location I place a strap eye on each
side of the boom and attach my first vertical line.
Note that this line
is split into two lines part way up. This is just a means of eliminating
extra line up in the rigging as well as eliminating some unwanted stretch
that such a long single line would have.
There are a couple thoughts on whether to place
the strap eyes on
the side of the boom or along side the sail slot on top of the boom.
prefer placing them near the top so the Lazy Jacks don't crimp any reef
lines along the boom.
will also find that generally there is another location toward the leach of
the sail where the sail wants to bulk or stack up. I place another strap eye at
this point, Then I divide the distance between the two sets (fore and aft)strap eyes and place
a third one in that area. I try to keep the spacing as equal as
possible and to a total of three vertical lines. Larger sails my require
Tip: The main thing to keep in mind is to "keep
Once the Lazy Jacks are setup, they never need tending.
Click on any pic for larger view
Note that on "Solita" I made the
longest vertical line just behind the mast. I have since modified this to
have the "split" line behind the mast and the single vertical the aft line
That very long line had too much stretch and didn't hold the forward part of
the sail the way I wanted.
I have now modified the system to have only three
vertical lines instead of the four in this photo. (Keep it simple)
Once you have the design laid out on one side, duplicate it on the other
side of the boat. Keep in mind that the "main" leg of the Lazy Jack system
is a continuous loop from the port side of the mast, down and thru the top
lift block and back up to the attachment (eye strap) on the starboard side
of the mast.
When the system is hoisted and installed, both port and
starboard ends of the main line are mounted permanently to the mast.
all the vertical lines will be hanging down from this main leg or line. Find
the locations where you want to attach them to the boom. This too is done
using eye straps. I place these eye straps very close to the sail slide
groove in the boom. The reason is that having them up higher on the boom
helps to keep the bulk of the sail closer to the top edge of the boom. This
is extremely beneficial when you have a reefed sail. The bulk can be held up
by the lazy jacks and there is no need for reef ties to be wrapped around the
boom. In fact, I don't use reef ties on my sails. The Lazy Jacks keep
everything in place.
I snug these lines up to a point where the sail is now supported by
the system and I pass the vertical line thru the eye strap and tie a square
knot to hold the tension.
I leave this knot in the line and adjust the
lines as needed when I start sailing. After a few sea trials, I'll learn
just where I want them and at that point I'll splice eyes into the end of
the lines making them permanent.
A stopper knot allows me to adjust the vertical lines until I have some
miles on the system. Once I have worked out the proper tension, I do "eye
splices" in the lines and make them permanent
The topping lift is routed from the aft end of the boom forward to a cleat
near the front end and close to the reefing lines.
I leave enough extra
line so that by easing off on the top lift, the lazy jacks can be lowered to
a position where they lay on top of the boom just behind the mast.
The only time I need to
lower them is if I have to set the storm trysail. Other wise they stay right
where they are.
In using this system I have developed a few tricks that
make dousing the sail and reefing much easier.
The first thing I do is
adjust the resting boom height. With the sail down and furled, I use the top
lift to raise the boom outer end slightly above the boom gallows or cradle.
Maybe a couple inches. I cleat the top lift and then I mark the top lift
line right where it comes over the top of the cleat. Here I take some
colored whipping twine and I whip about an inch of the line right at this
If at any time when I am sailing, I find that I need to adjust the
top lift/lazy jack system, when I decide to drop the sail I return the top
lift line to where that whipping is right on top of the cleat. I then let
the halyard fly. The boom lowers to the point where the top lift holds it
above the gallows and the sail folds itself in the lazy jacks.
haul on the mainsheet, the stretch in the three strand polyester lazy jack
line allows the boom end to be tucked down secure right in the gallows. When
ready to hoist the sail, I simply release the mainsheet and hoist away.
The key to making this work is to ALWAYS return the top lift whipping mark
to the cleat before letting the sail come down.
Using the top lift in jiffy or slab reefing takes the load off
the outer end of the boom and makes hauling in the outer reef a snap.
also use the whipping idea to making reefing fast and simple. Sitting at the
dock on a calm day, take in number one reef. Once the out haul is snug, use
the top lift to raise the outer end of the boom so that the leach of the
sail gets a good, slack curl in it. Then place another whipping on the line
at the cleat where it rests for this reef point. Maybe use a different color
so you can identify it from the resting boom position mark. Then do the same
thing for number two reef. I generally use one color of the resting boom
position and another color for reef marks. but, for number two reef, I place
two whippings at this location. This way even at night I can feel the
whippings and know which is which.
in a Reef;
Ok so I have practiced this for over forty
years and I have actually, on occasion, been able to take in a reef in 45
seconds. Providing someone else releases the mainsheet.
here's how it
At the mast I call "let fly the mainsheet". My wife releases it
completely and makes sure it is free to run out as much as it needs without
any snags or knots.
I first haul in on the top lift to the point where
the whipping for number one reef is right on top of it's cleat. I secure the
line on the cleat. Then I ease the main halyard and haul the luff down to
the number one reef cringle and place it over the reef hook on the goose
neck. I then hoist the halyard back and tension it properly. Once the
halyard is secured, I then release the top lift to a mark on it where I have
previously marked the "working" position. I call "mainsheet trim" and it's
done. Just that easy.
The extra sail lays in the lazy jacks and there is
no need to tie in the intermediate reef ties. In fact, many people don't
realize that if you do tie these in, they should NEVER be brought down tight
around the boom. All they are there for is to hold up the extra sail laying
along the boom. Once reefed you are sailing on a "loose footed" sail.
Meaning it is only attached at the head, clew and tack. No slides or support
are needed between the tack and the clew. Plus, if you do tie the reef ties
around the boom, you have strapped the top lift and other reef lines to the
boom and they can't be used.
I also use this whipping system to pre-mark many lines on the boat that
perform a wide variety of functions..
Coming back to the reef system, I
also place whippings on the main halyard that tell me just how far to lower
the main sail to get it over the reef hook. This way I don't have the entire
sail trying to pile up on the boom.
I use Silicon Spray Lubricant to lube all my sail slides. On the mast, booms
and my pole track. NEVER use WD40. Silicon will not leave oil residue which
contributes to rotting the sail thread.
you install lazy jacks you create a whole new problem for the canvas man.
I have already stated my opinions on Stack Paks and must add that for the
"day sailor" that most likely will never encounter heavy seas and winds
where the boat can be overwhelmed, a stack pak can be a very convenient way
to go. I personally want my mainsail to perform at it's best at all times
since we "sail" nearly every mile we travel and I feel the stack pak messes
with the air flow across the lower portions of the sail.
I guess this
needs to fall under "my opinions" regarding jib furling. But that needs to
be taken up at another time.
Back to the cover. I like my sail cover to
be very tight around the sail and boom. In fact, I prefer it also
incorporate the normal "sail gaskets" used to keep a sail secured to the
boom. Oh, but that's what the lazy jacks do too. so why stop there.
only trick to sail covers for vessels with lazy jacks is how those vertical
lines need a place to exit the cover.
I've included some photos of
systems that I have seen on other vessels. Decide which works best for your
They may not look as "Yachty" as most covers,
but my sail won't get loose in high winds either.
Click to enlarge
Enlarge this pic and look at the Lazy Jacks on the
Catboat to the left
More Lazy Jack ideas. Just enlarge these images or enlarge and download
them then study how each boat is setup
Here the Gaff is secured on top of the sail and boom.