Furling always works best by bearing off, heading on a deep broad reach and furl the sail in the lee of the main.. Much less strain on the furling gear, esp in a breeze. Sounds like you had plenty of sea room for that. You can do this under sail... another good reason not to get into the habit of headsail-only sailing.... even a reefed main would have helped.
1984 Fast/Nicholson 345 "FastForward"
".. there is much you could do at sea with common sense.. and very little you could do without it.."
Capt G E Ericson (from "The Cruel Sea" by Nicholas Monsarrat)