Bristol Channel Cutters
I reccomend reading "More Good Boats" by Roger Taylor it reviews the Bristol Channel Cutter and then looks at Jolie Breeze as well. Taylor pretty much agrees with Jeff but provides much more detail which I think you will find useful.
Taylor also wrote "Good Boats" and at least one other book. These books evaluate 30 odd boats many of which would be of interest to you Dave.
Woodwork can always be painted that is what the original owners used to do with this type of vessel. On the other hand I own a workboat derived boat and I find myself laying down coat after coat of varnish because it looks so good I can''t stop myself.
Technology and boat design is a very interesting question. There is very good evidence that technology, racing rules and fashion can come together in ways that make more recent boat designs less seaworthy, or less comfortable, or slower than older designs. Look at "Seaworthiness: the Forgotten Factor" for a long and informative discussion on the topic.
In addition to the books by Taylor I would check out this website: http://www.macnaughtongroup.com/
They have a lot of good thoughts on boat design.
I can''t emphasize enough that you should read a lot and also look at as many boats as possible before you buy, especially if your serious about buying a character boat. There are many great boats out there, it really pays to spend the time looking.