Sloop vs. Fractional Sloop vs. Cutter
I can only offer a few tidbits around the edges after Jeff''s thorough review.
I don''t think your characterization of a sloop is correct when applied to offshore sailing, as you''ll inevitably want to have an inner stay (Solent or staysail) when the wind starts to moan and the seas build. Simply rolling up a jib or genny part way and drawing that CE further forward is a bad alternative as it will stress the furling gear, put the furling line (and perhaps its tendency to chafe in severe going) to a real test, and provide a lousy sail shape. So...sloops look the simpliest when daysailing but suddenly start to become more complicated when set up for an offshore run. We''re very pleased with the Solent stay we installed (our boat is a ketch) but it does complicate things.
Cutters can, in one sense, be seen as coming in one of two versions: one is rigged with a boom to enable simplier rigging of the staysail sheet and traveler (not ''better'' mind you, just simplier) and which just might wap you in the ankles and toss you over the side, while the other is boomless and offers more running rigging, tracks etc. How nicely integrated all this is on the boat you end up considering will depend...but even when looking inside the ''cutter envelope'' of choices, there are some frustrating compromises. The most common of truths I heard from owners of cutter rigged boats is how infrequently they get much mileage out of that inner foresail and all its associated hardware.
Fractional rigs need additional heavy weather support (note Jeff''s referral to running backs) as the specific design of the fractional rig can look very sparse in the standing rigging department when you think about that stick being tossed about by a heavy sea. And oh my, aren''t we putting a lot of faith in that (normally) one forestay. There''s a very solid-looking Kiwi sloop down the dock from us right now, arriving here in London via the Indian Ocean and the Med, and she''s *very* fractional (3/4 at the most) despite being 43'' LOA. The couple sailing her have a nice hard dodger to hide under, and as long as they stay ahead of the mainsail as winds increase, they''re in good shape. There''s a lot to recommend that option, I would think, provided the boat is well designed for it.
Good luck on the search...