I have had a venture 17 for a couple years now.
It's been a love hate relationship. I love the size and how easy it is to rig and sail. I love the low price and how reasonable new equipment for it is. I also love that I can tow it with just about anything. It's great for an afternoon cruise with the wife.
Now, to things I don't love. I really don't like how it performs to wind. I can't say why exactly, but it really struggles upwind. I think it has to do with a number of factors. First the free board is really high for a boat that size. The hull its self is a big ol sail trying to push you back down wind. It's really nice because even in chop, sailing is almost always dry, but it often turns into a motor sailor going up wind.
I don't like the winch design for the centerboard. The cable hums any speed over 2-3knots. Not terrible, just not ideal. Also the winch takes up a lot of room in the cockpit.
The cockpit is small. I often take 4 people sailing. We fit, but it's not very comfortable. The cockpit is too narrow. While there are seats on both sides, you cannot sit across from another adult due to leg room. This is in part due to the high hull sides behind the seats being 4-5" thick taking 10" of beam out of the seating area. Also the hull is relatively narrow at only about 6' at it's widest and probably less than 4' at the stern.
Finally it bobs a lot. That's simply the nature of a 17' sailboat, but especially if you don't fix the keel, it will bob enough (in a lake with power boat traffic) that a long shaft motor is a necessity to keep it in the water. I have a short shaft 2hp johnson on a raising motor mount, so I can set it anywhere relative to the water, but I often cannot keep it submerged without risking swamping the motor on the other end of the wave.
That seems like a lot of downers, but I do like the boat. I paid $800 in ready to sail condition with the original sails. I can't complain. I'm going to be selling it this summer most likely and home-building a 18-20 foot sport boat. Just ready for something different. I would buy one again though. I wouldn't sell it if I didn't need the room.
My best mods:
I put a hobie 14 wing shaped mast on and modified an Isotope 16 main sail (it's like a hobie 16 with a foot size that fit the boom better). It's a high roached, full battened sail. Compared to the old blown out main, it was night and day. Faster, much closer pointing, less healing, and much easier to trim. It's like a new boat. I also added reef points so I can reef normally rather than roll around the boom, which sucks.
I made some simple lazy jacks out of rope to hold up the boom. I'm a huge fan. With as light as the sail and boom are, I just used rope and I can drop them off a couple cleats on the bottom of the boom when I'm sailing.
With the new sail I converted it to slugs. Having slugs and lazy jacks makes putting up and dropping the main a one person 30 second deal. Before it was a two person job having one person unroll the sail and deal with the boom flopping all over while the other fed the bolt rope and pulled the halyard. Now I set up the boom, with sail flaked on the lazy jacks, hook up the halyard and feed in the slugs before I put her in the water. Once in, I motor out of the marina, and All I have to do is have someone hold the tiller while I pull the halyard and zip the main sail up. LOVE IT!
The other addition will be a roller reefing system. I already have a pvc home-built one ready, just haven't put it on yet. I'm probably going to buy a new jib for it for sailing this summer before I sell it. With that on the roller with the lines all led back to the cockpit I'll be happy as a clam.
Finally I would buy about half a dozen cam cleats. For the halyard, the jib halyard, the jib sheets etc. They all have the really cheap wrap around dock type cleats. Much more enjoyable to spend $5 per line for cheap v cleats or $10ish for some cheaper cam cleats. You don't need expensive ones. There aren't more than 100lbs of force on any line other than the main sheet.
One other upgrade I have seriously considered is a traveler for the main sail. The sheet set up acts as sheet, vang, and traveler all in one. It doesn't give much ability to shape the sail. I think a traveler with 3 or 4:1 block would do a lot to improve performance.
I think that pretty much sums up my experience.
One more thing, a 2hp may not always be enough in a blow. It doesn't cut through chop all that well, and if I were looking for a new motor, it'd be a 3.5hp.
sailrite sells sail kits for really reasonable prices if you can sew yourself. A new jib goes for around $200. Hard to beat that!