This is so late you may never read it, but here goes anyway.
I singlehanded a 24 Columbia for two years cruising nearly 5000 miles. I tried the downhaul routine and had limited success. The downhaul line
would hang-up occasionally when raising the sail, and with all the stuff I had onboard for cruising, it always seemed to be underfoot or rolling out from under foot is more like it. So, I took it off.
The safest way to lower the headsail on any vessel that is being sailed short-handed is to heave-to. With the head sail backwinded, ease the sheet enough to allow the sail to come down. Now you have a stable platform to go forward, pull down the sail, tie it to the lifelines with lines
that are tied there just for this purpose, and walk back to the cockpit.
The sheets aren''t flogging. The clew isn''t trying to bean you. And, it isn''t nearly as noisy.