I respect your opinion, but nothing you said disproves what I said with the exception that I should have specified the X or M model.
Sure life is full of compromises. When I bought my last boat, I wanted a Pacific Seacraft. My wife wanted a Catalina. We compromised on the Catalina because it would mean more time on the water and that is what I really wanted.
Based on the fact that the Mac 26 X and M sell, then someone likes them. But I just don't see the appeal. As I said, they don't sail well and they don't power well. IMO, if you want to sail, get a sail boat. If you want to get somewhere fast(er), get a power boat. But again, it is all just opinion.
As for the Mac 26S or D, they seem like OK trailer sailors. I would not be really comfortable with some of the standard equipment, like the shrouds and turnbuckles, but again, that is my opinion. They also seem like you could not tune the rigging very well with that set up. The do seem to be very comfortable below compared to other boats in their size and set up.
I'm sure there are racers or others that would say they wouldn't take a Catalina for free. In fact, my friend that I occasionally race with has said basically that. I wasn't insulted. It was just his opinion, but he has a planning hull open 30 racer. That boat is really fun to sail in ideal conditions but I would never want to be on the water in that boat in more the 15-20 kts of wind or in a storm. Like you said, everything is a compromise.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain