I have swallowed hard and cut the linen at the two ends. Not quite such a point of no return as I feared, because there is quite a big flap to stitch before the final cutting down. I have also stapled the fabric to the gunwales at the two ends, which is probably a bit more of a commitment. The next stage involves resining the stems and stitching. It is still so cold I am not sure if I should start that.
The fabric does drape well. There is a slight puckering on the gunwales which seems hard to get rid of. As you stretch one out, it creates another further along. I hope that the fabric might tighten slightly when the linseed applied, but I am not sure it will.