We will be looking at four different sailboats this weekend. One of the boats is a Catalina 34 MK 1.5. It seems this boat has been very well taken care of (although electronics seem outdated). Here is our concern....she has been used for racing quite a bit on Lake Michigan. Should we be concerned about the fact that this boat has most likely been pushed to it's limits many times? Of course, we would have a survey done to make sure that things are sound structurally. Any thoughts, concerns, or things that we should be looking at specifically would be appreciated.
Thank you for your time.
Here is what I recommend noobs answer in sequence:
1. Will it meet my needs better than any of the 100s I've looked at on the internet, and 10 most promising of those, I've seen in person?
2. Has it been well maintained?
3. Is the initial purchase price, refit, and ongoing maintenance within my budget?
If you can answer "YES" to all 3, buy it! If no to any, keep looking.
There is absolutely no point buying a boat that doesn't meet your needs.
This is tricky if you are just starting out as you can't really know what you need.
Additionally, your needs may very well change, and quite rapidly as you gain experience, and nobody can predict in what way.
You could start racing and realize that you much prefer cruising, or vice versa, and have absolutely the wrong boat to make the transition well.
For most noobs, I recommend just talking to a number of sailors, both cruisers and racers, realizing that you will get as many different opinions about "what is best" as people you talk to, but just pick what makes sense to you.
Then purchase a used, but well cared for boat, that is popular.
If you decide this vessel no longer meets your needs, you should have little difficulty selling for about what you have in, if you bought it right and have also taken good care of it.
It will likely take many years of experience perhaps on several boats, to know what you really need, and be able to justify the cost of a fine example for what may be a moving target for the rest of your life.
Be aware that there is really no such thing as a "best" boat and the "final" boat is the one you own when you retire from sailing forever or kick the bucket.
Most sailors tend to lust after something else within ~7 years after the honeymoon.
(Yes, I'm still speaking about boats.) ;-)