SM, I like
I don't see many trends in these ocean races advancing the game for the rest of us. In areas perhaps, such as electronics, but as a general direction?
I don't think this is right. Roller furling and self steering certainly have made great strides, and these offshore races have had a large impact on that.
Likewise, I think hull shape has been impacted as well. I know you were talking about so-called "blue water," and not coastal, and arguably the changes in hull shape have impacted production boats more directly. But that said, far far more sailors sail coastal than blue water, and modern production boats are starting to look a lot like the Vendee Globe boats, or at least a lot more like them than they are more traditional and older designs.
I suspect building materials and methods have been impacted too, but I don't really have specific knowledge on that.
And Smacky, if you're planning on sailing the coasts, I think any of the recent vintage production boats will do ya. Having had both, I think a big difference between the two "types" (mass produced and more limited production/semi-custom) are how they are outfitted coming from the factory. Mass produced boats are not as well equipped coming from the dealer, and I don't mean just in terms of goodies. Handholds, extra tankage, serious equipment, better materials on ancillary items, and stuff like that. But as you've noted, plenty of mass produced boats have gone far afield. But even aside from trans-oceanics, many many of these boats have cruised the Bahamas and gone to Bermuda and back. Tons of them actually. If that's your expected use or something comparable, they're fine (properly equipped and maintained of course).