I was in this exact situation about 15 years ago when I was still a rookie and a big thunderhead drifted by. I learned a lot.
Learn to twist off the top of your sails
. Both the jib
and the main. You do this by easing the sheets
and dumping wind
out the top of the sails
. You should easily be able to sail on a beat or tight reach in 20 knot
winds with this method, at least in the short term.
I would suggest that you do not drop the jib
. If you only have the main up then you won't be able to tack through the wind
and you will have the lee helm
that you experienced. If you must drop a sail then drop the main. With just the jib you can probably tack. It was exactly because I dropped the jib that I needed rescue
by the local fire department in the above situation 15 years ago (and is the reason why I've gone to such an extent to learn how to avoid it.)
With both sails up, if you are pinching up so much that you can not tack, then you are pinching too much. You have to keep the boat
sailing under your control, not the wind's control. Ease the sheets
When you want to tack, ease both the main and the jib sheets by a foot, then head
down slightly to pick up speed, and then tack.
In my book I write about "emotional inertia". This is where you are too nervous to make a necessary maneuver (like a gybe in high winds) and instead end up in a worse situation. (see fire department rescue
above). Some times you just have to make the decision to take the risk.
Keep practicing. Like anything worthwhile you will get comfort with experience and by asking here. You should try something "outside your skill level" every time you go sailing. In a couple of years you will be laughing at 20 knots.