I have only had the fun of Sailing in 40+ knots once. But an experience like stays with you as if it were a few hours ago. My take is that while we think of wind as constant speed and direction, it is anything but constant in either speed or direction. So, when the speed is up, the forces are magnified. At those high speeds, a small change in direction will make the boat shudder. Also, the forestay that was taught at 15 knots seems loose at 40 knots which only adds to the problems. There is nothing to do do but either tough it Out and cope with the shuddering or remove sail and motor in. I thInk your instinct to have-to was a good one.
Sailing on The Central Chesapeake Bay, West River, MD on my Catalina 27, Aelous II with my wife and friends.
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