Tips on Folding the Main Sail


Folded main sail with leach marks to help the crew fold the sail

Folding the Main Sail on many boats is one of those jobs that can be a bit frustrating getting the folds even as the sail is coming down with the boom moving around as the boat bounces in the waves.

I have put luff and leach markers on the main sail that are short pieces of one inch draft tape about four inches long.  The markers  on the leach of the sail center  the leach of the sail on the boom.


Pull the mark on the luff out sideways to help fold the main sail

The luff of the sail has the same marks placed on alternating sides and when the sail comes down the marks are pulled to the outside which alternate the folds, as the folds are alternated the leach marks are placed on the top of the boom.

The marks help the crew to fold the main quickly and evenly and helps everyone to quickly drop the sail.  In some cases the main needs to come down faster than the folders on the leach (back of the boat) can keep up with the luff.  In this case if the luff folder can pull the marks to the outside the luff of the sail will be set correctly and all that needs to be redone at the dock is the leach of the sail.  This saves much hassle and frustration on the part of everyone.


The luff of the main sail showing the alternating folds and marks on the luff

A few hints.  Get the proper amount of draft tape from a sailmaker, count the number of folds and multiply by the length you want the marks to be.  The first time I got half the tape I needed because I guessed at the amount needed.  I used one inch draft tape but some people have used contrasting electrical / rigging tape or just a big black marker.

Fold the sail carefully and adjust the folds evenly as desired.

Clean the sail well where the tape will go.  I used three rinses, water to remove any salt and dust, alcohol and then adhesive remover.  That seems to be working so far.  Keep in mind that the draft tape will be bending along the axis and needs to stick well.

Apply the tape in the proper place and press or burnish it down well so it sticks well to the sail.

Now go sailing and your crew should have a much easier time with the main.

I have only seen this method used on a few boats, when I went into the sailmaker to get the draft tape to replace my original magic marker marks, they ask what I needed the tape for and I told them about folding the main and they told me that they had done the same thing on many sails.  So much for stealing an almost original idea.  But the marks have made dropping the main sail much easier for my crew, they are now surprised at how easy it is to drop the main.

Yes Lazy Jacks and Dutchman and other methods of holding the sail on the boom also help to tame the main, but the draft take cost me less than $ 5—at a local sailmaker.

Thanks for your interest in and support of boating safety.

– c/m –

This entry was posted in Sailing and Boating Skills and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Tips on Folding the Main Sail

  1. mryachts says:

    I could have used this tip on my last boat, however, my current boat has in mast reefing of the main, so folding the main sail is no longer an issue.

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