Re: Novice looking for first boat advice. Contessa?
It's difficult to say for sure which model Contessa it is without knowing the mast height. They could have added a bigger genoa or a main sail with extra roach to a "SM" boat to increase the sail area.
In any case, ketches and yawls generally have a lower mast height because they have a mizzen sail. These designs were popular for a while as ocean going boats because with the lower (in height) sail area they tend to be more stable with less healing action. I'd assume that the "SM" version was created for this 'school of thought'.
The larger mast version and larger sail area would be better for lighter wind situations. Of course with either version you can still reef or change to smaller sails for a similar effect. If you expect to be in trade winds most of the time the "SM" version might be preferred.
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