You have a few questions to answer for you to get some resolution.
First...do you have the money
available to buy a secondhand boat...say $300k to $400...to purchase
a secondhand boat...if yes then buying
is the easiest/quickest path to sailing your first regatta
. Get on to as many cats as you can via charter
club, other sailing clubs, beg, grovel, buy beers. This way you will actually find out what you want in a cat. Then you are ready to buy.
If not and you want to spread the spend over a 3 to 5 years then you are looking at building a boat.
When you decide to build you have some basic choices to make...the key one I found was the choice of materials which basically comes down to a few main variants. Wood, steel/al, composite. They are the big groupings. Under this there are variations of materials and techniques. At this stage it's more a case of discounting the types you simply don't want. Nth is will take a bit of research
. Essentially for me it came down to ...know nothing about steel or aluminum so did not consider the,.
Now look at all the designs form all the wonderful designers out there...there are plenty. Look at the designs...what do you like??? I found that I would settle on a design and then nitpick until I found an even better vision of the design. Interestingly enough the designers are very generous with helping you with real information on your ideas. I had some dumb ideas at the start and these guys put me right...which is a very good thing for them to do.
Once you have settled on say 3 or 4 designs then you have to look at the materials involved. You now have another choice. There is the resale value to consider. Starting with the best resale value you generally have the good production cats, the privilege
, sea wind
, etc. next you have the pro built cats usually an unusual custom design with personal taste features. Then comes us, the diyers. The composite boats are consider more valued than wooden second hand cats. I can't comment on steel or aluminum. So you choose timber, like I have, and you know the resale will be less. .but I chose it because of the familiarity of the material and the design...a Dix dh550.
So that is a starting point in my view, hope this helps.