... I’ll keep you posted. One thing that has me curious is the wide variety of boats that get posted to Paulo’s thread. Now, I’ve only been sailing in Germany, Norway and Great Britain, but I didn’t see the large volume of “exotic” boats that Paulo writes about. Where do I find the European version of our YRA and where can I find the results of the various regattas? All I find are the professional type races and I’m not interested in “NASCAR” results. ...
A agree with you completely on that and I suggest that sailing one day on a boat is not enough unless you have narrowed down to the precise type if boat that suits you. I have charted several boats for a week and more to find out what was the kind of boat I was interested in (sailed out others with friends or in limited test sails).
The best place to try new boats is Croatia. The importers of different boats have brand new boats or boats with one or two years that you can charter. Be aware that those boats have a huge demand and that now it will be probably too late to manage to charter one of those, at least for this summer.
For testing a RM the best place is the Atlantic coast of France. if you talk with the shipyards they will point you in the right direction.
Regarding the comparative performance of the boat you have plenty places (ORC, PHRF, LYS) that rate sailboats, (cruisers and performance cruisers) in a quite precise way. You will have a pretty good idea of the average performances of each sailboat.
Regarding to look at the race results as information the best places are races with a huge number of participants. In those most of the boats are cruising sailboats. It is better to look at European races not only because they are bigger in numbers but also because the average age of the boats is much lower.
As I said there are plenty and I post about them on "interesting boat thread" but just to give some examples, the ARC.
World Cruising Club - ARC Results
J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race - Results for the 2012 race
You have to look at real time results, not handicap.