A guy in our club had one a few years ago (I think they left to go to France?) and it was very fast. I do not know what they are like as a long distance cruiser as I am aware that a lot of Dehlers were not fitted with secure sea berth arrangements, leecloths etc as they were designed more for racing. His boat was a fast passage maker but he was also a good sailor which I think you need to be for this pedigree.
I've PMd you. Lovely fast powerful boat to sail- it's always a pleasure to turn the engine off and start sailing, even in light winds. Not as voluminous down below as some more modern boats, but very comfortable for long cruises for 2 with baby. We looked at loads in that price range and also higher, but settled on the Dehler after a test sail. You're welcome to come and have a sail if you don't mind heading down to devon.
They are a fractional rig with a big main and if you have been a dinghy sailor then you will be used to sailing with a powerfull. They were designed for racing and very fast.
My view on this aspect is that you will always need to be aware of when to reef the main. which IMHO is earlier than on heavier mast head rigs yachts. The concern is as the wind pipes up there is often the urge to roll in the foresail a bit but this can potentially lead to broaching with this rig. The main can be reefed early and without a great deal of reduction in speed if any at all. This is certainly my experience of sailing with my previous boat that had this kind of rig.
I currently know a guy with Dehler 37 who is taking a bit of time to get used to handling her.
The Dehler 34 has a good ballast ratio, even with the taller rig. You can easily hold full rig upwind up to about 22+ knots of true wind- the rudder then starts to lose grip. You're correct about the powerful main- my preference is to put the first reef in the main at this stage- easier with single line reefing- it is then transformed into the equivalent of a mast head rig. There is also a good powerful adjustable backstay which opens the top of the main leech well and nicely depowers the main. The trick is to keep a pretty flat main in stronger winds and ease off the traveller a bit.
I've owned a couple of them, and raced (in & offshore)and cruised (coast & North Sea) them both. Very fast (rate well. too), very pretty, well built, hold their value well, comfortable but a bit short on headroom forward. Although the hull remained constant, everything else changed according to year and model. PM me if you need to talk through.
have to confess to considerable bias as now in our 4th year with ours and are delighted with her-sail as family of 5 and her performance in all conditions superb-truly a pleasure to helm , quality of build all that is claimed/reported in the reviews (right down to decent yanmar rather than problematic volvos we have had before) - ours is the nova (white varnish) finish that we find makes the interior light and easy to keep smart- if we were looking to criticise the forecabin is cosy but does the job , helm is finger light and all the family can helm including our 10 year old, ultra manouverable under power and sail and we think has a great look too-first boat we have owned for 4 years without hankering after a different one - hope you get one and enjoy it as much as we do