Mainsail Handling: The Problems, & The Solution

For Years we have be searching for the ideal mainsail handling system but have never been really happy with any of the available systems.  All of the systems on the market have either been to big, too heavy, too expensive, not reliable enough, or in some cases all of the above, so in 2009 we developed the EZ Main Sail Handling System.  The slide show above shows the mainsail being raised and lowered without ever leaving the cockpit and then motoring at over 20 MPH without putting any ties on it at all.

When we set out to design a mainsail handling system specifically for the Macgregor we knew that to make sense it had to be lightweight, affordable, work with the factory mainsail, keep the boat simple and easy to trailer, and above all work simply and reliably.  We ended up with a system that weighs less than 4 Pounds, is over $2000 less expensive than the cheapest roller boom system, uses a modified factory mainsail, and stows for trailering like an adjustable masthead topping lift.

The most obvious part of our system  are two small vertical lines led through a series of carefully spaced grommets installed in the mainsail.  The top end of these lines attach to a topping lift style line that runs from the back of the boom to the masthead and then down to the deck and aft to the cockpit.  But in reality we have modified and upgraded the entire mainsail handling system.  Modifications include:

    Installation of custom spaced slides on the mainsail to allow a smaller, neater stack when lowered

    Addition of a third rope clutch to the Halyards Led Aft system.

    Upgrade all halyard system blocks to ball bearing for easier operation.

    Addition of a downhaul line to help lower the mainsail and secure it without leaving the cockpit.

    Addition of a custom machined gate to cover the mainsail feed slot in the mast so the sail stacks lower.

    Elimination of Jack Lines to improve mainsail shape, with the mast gate they are no longer needed.

Using The System

Raising the sail couldn't be easier, as you pull on the halyard from the safety of the cockpit, the sail slides up the small lines running through it smoothly and easily, without any risk of snagging or catching the battens like lazy jack systems do.  Since the sail is supported by the lines running through it, you can even remove the sail ties before you leave the dock!  The halyard and downhaul lines are a continuous loop, so you never have a huge pile of line cluttering up the cockpit.

When it's time to lower the sail, simply release the halyard rope clutch and the sail will lower by itself most of the way, then use the downhaul line to pull it the rest of the way down and hold it securely to the boom.  With a new sail you will need to tidy up the folds a little to make a nice tidy stack, but this can easily wait until you are comfortably back at the dock.  As your sail becomes "trained" and knows where to fold, it will need little or no tidying.

IS EZ Main Right For Me?  What About Lazy Jacks or Roller Boom?

EZ main is a great system that should be considered by anyone who wants a good, reliable, mainsail handling system that is simple and reasonably priced, but there is no solution that is perfect for everyone.  Here are some things to consider when deciding what is right for you.

1)  If your biggest priority is keeping the cost of your boat as low as possible, or you need to keep rigging and mast raising as simple as possible, then you should consider our basic mainsail slide system.  We have used this system for years and it is a little simpler to rig than EZ main, but you will have to leave the cockpit to remove sail ties before you raise the sail, as well as to tie it back to the boom when you lower it.

2)  We don't consider Lazy Jacks to be a logical option now that EZ Main is available.  They add the same amount of complexity to rig, aren't much cheaper, and are much more awkward to use.

3)  If ultimate ease of raising and lowering the sail is more important to you than cost, rigging simplicity, sail shape or sail life, then you might want to consider the roller boom system, which we can install for you as well.  For a boat that is moored in the water with the mast up all the time, roller boom lets you get the sail up and down faster than any other system, but we feel that for most people, the mechanical complexity, cost, and negative effect on sail shape and sail life caused by the sewn on UV cover make EZ Main a better choice.

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