I was right in thinking that it was a heck of a drop from the extended front form to the rear deck. I couldn't really visualize it until I started working full-length strips on the sides.
I used the heat-bending technique, as for the stem & stern strips. I also offset the strips a little, like ship lap, to make it down to the deck. In future builds, I'll use the full 1/4" thickness for the strips, so I won't have to worry as much about running out of wood while fairing.
I can better see what has to happen now. I even resorted to a couple of screws to hold it down.
I also have committed to using the long cockpit opening. After weighing the Pros & Cons, I decided that I'd rather be comfortable than 100% aesthetic.