The Dutchman Sail Flaking System uses vertical control lines laced through fairleads in the sail. The lines are attached to the topping lift and at the base of the sail and don’t move. The sail slides up and down on the lines like a roman shade. As you drop the sail, the lines guide the main down to alternate sides of the boom. A few seconds straightening, and you’re done.
Dutchman or Lazy Jacks? It depends on the sails.
Although the Dutchman is now the best selling system, it’s not for everyone. If you have an old soft main, use lazy jacks. They can be a pain – catching the sail, causing chafe, and making it hard to flake. But with a tired main, there’s no point flaking it – just roll it up.
Lazy jacks with covers? They have all the disadvantages of regular lazy jacks, and certainly look different. They may end up too high to reach, can be expensive to repair, and stuffing a good main in a bag is not the best way to treat it. But people who hate dragging out a cover like them. You can have a similar cover with a dutchman.
If you don’t want to touch the sail or can’t reach it, you need a furling mast. You give up light air and upwind performance, due to the flat shape, reduced area, and extra weight aloft. You’ll also spend a lot for the system and on upkeep.
This gear is complex, hard on the sail, and can jam badly if not properly maintained. Furling booms have less effect on performance, but the systems we’ve seen are hard to use. Like genoa furling, reefing is compromised with both systems. Good old jiffy (slab) reefing is hard to beat.
The Dutchman Advantage
And the Dutchman? It’s not for old, soft sails. They never develop any “memory” and need more straightening. Even a stiff sail will need some straightening, especially in the beginning. You must read the manual, and understand how to adjust the system. If the lines are too loose, the sail will fall off the boom and the system will be almost worthless.
But a well-adjusted Dutchman system is pretty amazing. Drop the sail, couple of quick tugs, and you’re done. One person can perfectly flake pretty much any size sail in under 20 seconds. Many owners don’t even bother with sail ties, even when reefing. it’s inconspicuous, there’s no noise, no change, no catching or other performance loss; reefing is easier, your sail lasts longer, and it’s only about twice the cost of lazy jacks. Not a bad deal. Probably why, after over 14 years and 20,000 systems, we’re number one and growing.