Going South - if you don't have a lot of sailing experience and are looking for a boat that has performance and comfort I would look at the Jenneau 379 - sister company to Beneteau built in South Carolina and one beautiful boat. I have a Beneteau 31 and looking to upgrade and yes while the first series is fast you sacrifice some comfort.
Someone told me once you know if you have the right boat if you use it a lot - we use our Beneteau every weekend weather permitting, its just a little snug. The 379 has a great cockpit the dual wheels gives you more pass through room, the keel has a long bulb, the gear on the performance version includes mylar sails, upgraded winches
, folding prop, upgraded standing and running rigging
. Add the composite wheel option and Simrad and you have as perfect a boat as you can find for around $200k. I have looked at every Beneteau, Jenneau, Catalina, Hunter, Hanse, Dufour from 35 - 42 feet. For the money the Jenneau is sexy, fast, roomy...worth a look!!
And if I can add something here too - if you have a spouse or partner you want them to feel comfortable to sail the boat too. When looking at boats we sea trialed a C&C 99, the Beneteau 31 and a Bavaria (cant remember the model). The C&C accelerated like a bat out of hell in a small breeze - I loved it. My wife however was petrified at the thought of having to handle a racing type boat with Kevlar sails, adjustable stay, cars controlled from the cockpit - just a lot of lines
, a lot of heeling over. In the three years since she has become perfectly at ease sailing our 31 which is a very easy sailing boat that still gets 7.5 knots with her assym flying. She has brought up her skills and I have found that 'speed' differences when cruising are immaterial between a race boat and a cruiser. A folding prop and an asymmetrical spinnaker
will get you to max hull speed on any cruiser, therefore if you want to go faster get a longer boat! (The formula for max speed is square root of lwl x 1.34.) A racier rig
will accelerate faster, will respond quicker but in terms of getting from marina A to anchor
spot B in a good breeze you can't go measurably faster with a First than a properly equipped Oceanis.
Also it's not just your preferences - it's also the people you will be sailing with. If you take people out who are new to sailing and you rip along heeled over at 8 - 9 knots in a first 407 having the time of your life you may never see your friends on board again. On the other hand of your friends are already of the race set you will have no shortage of volunteers come race day if you have a First. I am in a marina that has a lot of racers and a lot of cruisers - the racers are there in droves on race weekends and typically don't take many overnight trips having removed their anchor
and chain, dinghies
, dogs and other accouterments essential to cruising. The cruisers come on Friday afternoon, head out for the weekend and come back Sunday afternoon. I can't say one group is having any more fun than the other but I can say I dont see many Firsts at anchor
in a quiet harbour nor do I see many Oceanis winning trophies.