How to Fold Sails Onboard

Any time your sails come off the rigging on your boat, they need to be folded and stored properly. In part two, Quantum’s Alan Woodyard explains and demonstrates the different ways to fold your sails onboard your boat and when to use them. To learn about folding sails on a larger, flat surface, see part one.

Over Boom Flake

The idea with this onboard flake is to drape large flakes over the boom in an organized and wrinkle-free manner to help minimize creases and make it easy to cover. Start with the sail on the same side of the boat as you and your flaking partner. Wedge the head between the shrouds to keep it from sliding overboard. With one person at the mast and one at the back of the boom, flake the sail in big drapes over the boom. Pay attention to the length of the flakes to ensure they will fit under the sail cover. Continue to flake the entire sail toward the luff at the mast. If you’re able, or if you have a second helper, start securing the sail from the leech end with sail ties as you flake toward the mast. Due to the large, drooping flakes, the sail can become slippery, making it hard to control the flaked portions. Once you’re done, finish securing the sail and cover. The system your sail uses to attach to the mast will dictate whether you need to remove the sail from the mast or not.

WHEN TO USE: This method is commonly used when storing mainsails on the boom. There are some sail handling systems such as the Dutchman that auto-flakes as the sail is lowered.

Over Boom Sail Roll

With the entire sail on one side of the boom, fold the head toward the foot of the sail until you reach the first draft stripe and then drape over the boom. Place one person at the mast holding the luff and another at the end of the boom at the leech. Begin rolling from the draft stripe toward the foot, keeping the luff flush. If you’re rolling the mainsail with it attached to the boom, secure it to the boom with sail ties and cover. If you’re taking it off of the boom or rolling a head sail, lower it to the deck and secure with sail ties. If the roll feels loose, reach inside the luff end and grab the center of the roll and turn to tighten as you pull the inside out. You can then finish rolling the sail until it’s tight.

WHEN TO USE: Rolling sails is always the best way to store them. This method can be used to store working sails, including mainsails that aren’t attached to the mast.

Deck Sail Flake

Start with the entire sail on the opposite side of the boat and pull the foot of the sail over the boom to the deck. Even if you’re not flaking the mainsail on the boom, it works well to use the boom to help control the sail as you flake. If you have one, use a second helper to control the sail and keep it from falling overboard and/or hold up the middle if you’re not using the boom. Lay the foot flat on the deck on the deck, preferably on the inside of the shrouds. Begin flaking normally. Depending on batten placement and whether you’re going to load it into a bag or brick roll, the sail will dictate whether you flake toward the leech or the luff. Once you complete the flake, brick roll from the luff to leech or place in bag to store.

WHEN TO USE: This method is commonly used on sails that are stored below deck or taken off the boat after use. It can be used with any working sails.

If you have a driveway, an open grass area, or something similar, it's easier to fold your sails there. View tutorials on those methods in part one. As always, if you run into any issues, give your local Quantum loft a call, we're always happy to help.

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The Discussion

Rusty Heyman
Rusty Heyman

Thank you for the tips. Would be nice to see some tips on folding sails on deck in 17 knots and 4-5 foot swells other than buy a boat and make someone else do it.

Alan Woodyard
Alan Woodyard

Thanks Rusty, for checking out the videos! Yes, not many things on a boat are easy but the main thing to remember as conditions change is to plan ahead very specific steps of what you and your crew are going to do to accomplish the task at hand in the safest and most efficient way possible. Sometimes just getting sail-ties on a genoa and lashing it to the lifelines or just doing the best that the crew can to contain a sail and put it below where it can be dealt with after the conditions have improved or at the dock is the best way to handle the "folding" of sails. Of course, the more hands you have available to work as a team and accomplish the task the easier it is to control a sail in rough conditions, for example two people might be able to control the majority of the sail while two others flake the sail neatly rather than two people trying to flake a sail that's trying it's best to fly overboard. Stay safe, have fun, and don't stress too much if you can't get a perfect flake on that main or jib while underway in nasty conditions! -Alan Woodyard Quantum Sails Gulf Coast

Wilfred Darr
Wilfred Darr

More often than not in my experience the trouble isn't the wind, but rather the skipper doing 17 knots looking to get back for beer after racing! This impatience can cause difficulty with sail handling, ergo unnecessary wear on the sails and frustration for the crew. At a minimum, the boat should be making minimum headway into the wind. If conditions allow, use the engine to back down on the wind, reducing your apparent further by a couple knots, which can make a surprising difference for the crew tasked with taking the sails in (remember drag=CD x area x velocity SQUARED!).