As for you can get a better deal buying a used boat over a new boat that is only a N. American idea. Yes if your on a very limited budget yes that can be true, But many middle class folks in Europe, NZ and Aussy are buying good cheep bluewater boats new. They must give up a lot to do so but they are ready to do so. It is sad that N. Americans do not have good information on good boats being built in Europe and other parts of the world. Any brand new bluewater boat from 250K to 500 K US is cheaper than a great bluewater boat cost 25 years ago and by far. New boats are for people with more money than sense is a truelly strange way to put it. .... As for 20 something cruising a lot of them are on new boats that cost under 200K some of these twenty somethings worked as Auto body mechanics or street cleaners but they saved, sacrificed and are sailing for real.
I guess that what really is important is sailing not cruising.
For cruising, except on holidays and that means 30 days a year more some week ends, it will only be possible when someone retires from work and that means older people.
In what regards sailing the numbers of sailors are growing in Europe. For instance in England between 2005/2006 and 2007/2008 it was register a 22% increase. In France the number of sportive licences between 2004 and 2007 increased every year.
Source: Active people survey 2007/2008 sport England.
I have been cruising in Europe every year and I can assure you that there are much more sailingboats on the cruising grounds now than 10 years ago. No doubt about that.
Regarding the sell of sailboats the crisis had effects and there are now less sailboats sold in global numbers but also more big boats (+45ft) sold then before.
Already before the crisis we were seeing an increase in bigger cruising boats and cruisers were already buying mostly boats of 40ft and over.
The market that had an increase (besides the one of bigger boats) is the one of the small transportable cruisers and fast daysailers/racers. Especially fast rewarding and fun boats to sail.
I had a cruising boat before retirement and I can say that does not make any sense, at least in what regards objectivity and money. Marinas are very expensive in Europe and between marina, insurance and boat maintenance the average is about 10000 euros a year. With that money you can charter for a month a new 40ft in the most nice cruising grounds in Europe and if you do that with a friend it only cost you half of that. Anyway while someone is working actively the best one can get are 30 days of holiday and many don't even manage to get that so owning a boat is not a logical thing to do and certainly not in what regards an objective choice.
That's why most Europeans only buy a cruising boat or when they retire or when they are near to retirement. Before they use extensively charting on holidays.
Most when they retire, if they can (and many can, its the savings of a lifetime) will chose a new boat, if not they will chose the more used recent boat they can afford. Nobody wants in that stage of live to lose time fixing a boat or having an old boat. Everybody wants to finally set sail and go cruising even if few will be interested in long voyages but just to enjoy sailing and life. For many that will not mean to sail many days without seeing land without enjoying good meals on a restaurant.
The other option is to have a smaller boat that don't need to be on a marina or a small racing boat. Those numbers are increasing has the sailors that sail them.