Yeah I guess it's all how you look at it when looking from the outside. But in real terms, the main difference between Gelcoat
and a paint
system, is what and how it works. Gelcoat
and flowcoat being Polyesters, interact with the Glass/resin applied and become one with the resin. Apart from the gelcoat not having glass in it, it is still basicaly a coloured resin and thus becomes one and the same with the glass/resin matting it mates with. This results in a gelcoat that is impossible to seperate from the resin(providing the systems were applied correctly).
Where as Paint
aheres by keying" to the sub-surface, not a chemical/molecular bond. The paint and the substrate are two very different compounds and neither will mix at a molecular level with the other. Hence why when paint breaks down, it tends to fall away from the substrate.
Maybe it's called differently in your neck of the woods, but here in NZ, Awlgrip is a non-slip component. Awlcraft is the paint systems. How thin the paint is, is in how it is applied. As in No. of coats and amount it has been thinned. Thinning paint can reduce the long term life of the finished product. Often a paint system will fade badly and prematurely if it has been thinned too much. I have used Awlcraft and International/Epiglass paints and both have advantages and disadvantages. But yes, any paint system is suseptable to scratches due to it's very thin nature when compared to Gelcoat.
I think the reson why some boats are now being finished with Paint systems and not gel coat, is in the way the boat is constructed. Most hulls these days are being built on the outside of a mould and thus need a paint system to coat them. Where as Gelcoat is sprayed onto the inside surface of an external mould and the chopped strand and resin blown onto the Gelcoat. Two very different boat building processes.