Yes, my husband has been looking at displacement/length ratio, sail area/displacement ratio, ballast ratio, length/beam ratio, capsize screening factor, motion comfort ratio, power/displacement ratio, and design hull speed! He knows these aren't absolutes but it is a good way to compare different boats.
By the way, our main intent is for cruising, not racing.
Certainly all those different specs help to get a better idea of what to expect out of a boat, as long as you know how to interpret the differences.
When it comes to performance, PHRF handicaps are a reasonable reflection of what you can expect from a boat. They already take into account things like SA/D ratio, waterline, keel type etc. In order to produce that number. Even if you don't plan on racing, there is something to be said for having a more performance oriented cruiser. Typically you are going to find they are lighter, and have more powerful sail plans, which makes them more lively and enjoyable to sail than a heavy cruiser. A lot of cruisers need quite a bit more wind before they come into their element.
Of course much of it depends on where you intend to sail. Where I live the winds are often light in the summer. I can't tell you how many times we have been having a lovely sail, and all around us the heavy cruisers are motoring, because they just need more wind to get going.on the other hand if you sail in a windy area you might like having a stiffer boat that doesn't get overpowered easily.
Unfortunately some production cruisers place more emphasis on interior luxuries than on sailing performance. Catalinas walk that thin line between the two. They are roomy and comfy, but their sailing performance is pretty average. Not terrible, just not particularly noteworthy. (No offense to Catalina owners! It's just one man's opinion!)
It's all about priorities. Is it more important to have that little extra luxury when you are at your destination, or is the journey more important? It's about find the right balance for YOU!
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