Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: New England
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are somewhat subjective IMO. When I bought my kayak, I did some review search and question asking over on paddling.net and got a variety of responses. For kayaking, a novice can feel "tippy" in a high performance boat until they learn to paddle it efficiently, whereas they feel right at home in wide "barge" that is perfectly fine for a lazy day on the pond taking pictures or photos. The high performance person would review the same wide boat and tell you they hated it because it was slow, did not edge well, etc. Each boat is designed for a different purpose, the review is somewhat subjective.
The same holds true for sailboats. The three makers that you have listed all made/make good boats. The prime thing is basically, in and older boat, is how well has it has been maintained. Teh other thing is what do you want to use it for. Of the list, Bristols are built like tanks, but are considered some to be slow. Pearson made a huge number of models from fast hulls to slower hulls. I don't know about Bristols or Tartans, but Pearson quality (solidness of the boat construction) may have been a little compromised in the mid to late 80's and forwards as they tried to keep costs down while adding more creature comforts for the cruising public at that time.
You may want to look at older issues of Sail or Good Ole Boat to see if there are reviews in the models that you are considering. The other thing to remeber is to realize that the On water test is nevere the same fore each boat. Different wind, chop, helmsman, etc.