.... If Merlins are typically raced, then you should see what the PHRF rating on it is. That would give you some idea of how it compares to the boats you are more familiar with.
The PHRF ratings on the CS36M SD indicate the boat would be a tad faster than the other boats I'm considering. Oddly though, the PHRF High, Low, Median numbers are all the same for the Shoal Draft version. Also, I'm suprised at the deltas between the Deep draft, Shoal Draft and Wing Keel versions of this boat. While I'd expect some loss of performance with the short keel, the shoal draft is the slowest of the three by a wider margin than I would have guessed. I would have thought there would be little difference between SD and WK versions. Apparently, PHRF thinks the WK does indeed improve the boats performance. Anyway, I don't intend to race, and the boat does offer a more performance than the production boats that fit my budget and I require the shallow draft. It really comes down to condtion and build quality. There seems to be a perception that perhaps the Merlin is not as well built as its predecssor, but I'm seeking opinons on how it would compare with boats like a Beneteau, Catalina, Tartan or Sabre.
Thanks for the advice on giving the once over on a boat. That is pretty much the routine we've adopted for looking at boats. The reference to pictures was just to point out that you really cannot form an opinon on the conditon of a boat based on pictures. The Sabre we went to see, looked great in the photos, but was rough in real life. There had been no attempt at deception, the photos just did not reveal the warts.