Re: Switching from close reach to beam reach on 20 knot winds
The main issue sounds like simply too much mainsail. Things quickly cascade when wind overpowers helm balance. The angle and efficiency of the rudder is thrown all out of whack when the boat is heeled too far, causing extreme weather helm. The shape of the immersed part of the hull and the position of wind on the sails are all completely changed. I find that easing the main should always occur simultaneously with changes in course so as to try to keep the heel angle steady and avoid "bouncing" the heel angle up and down. If the boat can't be balanced after falling off or the main has to be eased so much as to luff, there's way too much sail up. It took me quite a while to learn that my boat handles SO much better when I'm more conservative in the amount of sail and reef early. Having the main up with much more than ten knots is inviting having to fight weather helm. Why fight it?
Also check your rigging tension, downhaul or vang tension, outhaul adjustment, halyard tension, and use of a cunningham to minimize weather helm by keeping the c/e forward. These things can really add up if not in tune.
Alberg 35: With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.