What is a Lazy Jack?

Terrie Brockmann

A lazy jack, or lazyjack, is a piece of nautical equipment that helps sailors control a fore-and-aft-rigged sail or a mainsail while reefing, furling, or securing it. This age-old system is a type of rigging, which, by connecting two or more points on the mast to two or more points on the boom, prevents the lowered sail from falling off the boom and onto the deck. Often referred to as self-flaking, this rigging usually reduces the number of crewmates required to secure the sail, thereby making it an important asset to many sailors. Using this method, a single sailor can usually handle this task alone.

A lazy jack may help reduce the number of crewmates required to secure a sail aboard a vessel.
A lazy jack may help reduce the number of crewmates required to secure a sail aboard a vessel.

The lazy jack system consists of a set of lines placed on both sides of the main sail. Top segments are attached at a high point on the mast and extend down to two or more line segments that are attached at different points along the boom. When the sailor furls the sail, the lazy jacks guide the sail down and capture it between these lines. A sail typically remains cleaner since the sail does not drop onto the deck and the sailors are not handling it as much as on a sailboat not equipped with lazy jacks.

Lazy jack kits are usually available for all sizes of sailboats.
Lazy jack kits are usually available for all sizes of sailboats.

Rigging with lazy jacks is the oldest self-flaking method and is still frequently used in modern times. A few systems, such as the Dutchman system, are modifications of the lazy jack system. One of the main differences between these two systems is that the lazy jack's lines rest on each side of the sail and the Dutchman's lines are on a single side and thread through holes in the sail.

Lazy jack designers typically need to customize the mounting points on booms and masts of sailboats. To have a properly working system, the lazy jacks usually need to be properly sized, installed, and adjusted. If the sail flakes unequally over the boom, the uneven weight can possibly damage a spreader and make the sail harder to store. Another problem with the lazy jack is that the lines often tangle when a person raises the sail.

Many boat owners rig their own lazy jacks or purchase after-market kits. Generally, companies sell kits for all sizes of sailboats, from dinghies to large yachts and cruisers. They usually design them for boats with full-battened mains as well as boats with standard sails. When purchasing a kit, a boat owner usually compares the line composition, which can vary from nylon rope to plastic-clad steel cable, and the types of hardware.

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Discussion Comments


@Animandel - I am trying to learn exactly what a lazy jack is and what it does myself, so I can't help you out very much. However, you might be interested to know that one of the main complaints I have heard about lazy jack systems is that the sail battens get caught when the sail is being raised, and this seems to be a common complaint from people who use the lazy jacks.


@Animandel - Lazy jack or no lazy jack? There is not a simple answer. As the article says in the next to last paragraph, if you get a lazy jack system then you need to make sure you have the right size, and on top of that installation can be a challenge. Personally, I sail quite a bit, and I don't have a lazy jack system, and I can't say they are good or bad since I don't know enough about them.

However, I don't like what the article says about there being a possible problem with getting the lines tangled when the sail is raised. I do fine without a lazy jack system, but I'm sure there is someone out there who thinks they are a necessity.


My husband and I went to a sailboats sale the other weekend. We don't actually have the money to buy one, but we often look at them and dream that we might be able to buy one once all of the kids are out of the house and supporting themselves.

I should also mention that neither my husband or I know much about sailing, and we have no practical experience handling a sailboat. Anyway, we have been hearing people talk about the benefits of having a lazy jack on the boat , and other people say that the item is not worth considering.

Again, we have no practical experience, so I am wondering whether having a lazy jack on the boat is a pro or a con when you add it all up.

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