Just a thought Bubblehead - your Pearson's first reef is probably the jib
, and more than likely the same point as other boats of that size and genre - namely at 18 knots apparent.
In other words you should have reefed or put on a smaller sail before you left the pier since you don't have a furler
Your downwind was fine as the apparent wind was lower - you should have blanketed the jib
with the main, changed jibs
and then turned to go home.