I have to go with the Vindicator. It has everything the Thunderbolt has plus an extra pair of torpedoes and those cool Leech Lasers! Leech lasers are the best way to kill cloaking opponents in my opinion because their damage does not heal while you are waiting for your next chance to shoot.
I hated the Dragon. I hated the Rapier. I even hated the Excalibur. Oh, and, I hate the Vampire.
I hated them because they were supposed to be the "ultimate fighter" of that game. I love ships that require a good strategy, and have specific advantages and disadvantages. My favorite two ships of all time are the Raptor and the Panther. Next would be the Arrow, followed by the Ferret. I kick ass in all four of those ships, and for very specific purposes: I have a technique for each one.
Raptor (in the wc1 engine): unload full guns into the nose of that damned dralthi and fly past him. Pick a new target and dogfight him, then turn around and plant another volley up that first dralthis nose when he gets his confidence back.
Panther: Use the yaw rate to your advantage. Go easy on the trigger, preferring to make sure your well-aimed bursts connect. Bugs die fast that way.
Arrow: Use its speed and maneuverability to get behind a slower ship and ruin his shit. Use the autoslide if neccessary to maintain distance from rear turrets. Keep your guns on him, but know when your straffing run needs to end.
Ferret (in the wc2 engine): Same as a Raptor, but making damn sure to avoid their front guns. Those mass drivers kick a lot of ass.
Length: 40 meters / 18.33 meters (Winner: Vampire)
Mass: 26 tonnes / 17 tonnes (Winner: Vampire)
Max. Velocity: 500 kps / 600-700 kps (Winner: Vampire)
Aft. Velocity: 1,200 kps / 1,550 kps (Winner: Vampire)
Acceleration: 900 k/s^2 / 1,800 k/s^2 (Winner: Vampire)
Max. Yaw: 60 / 75 (Winner: Vampire)
Max. Pitch: 75 / 140 (Winner: Vampire)
Max. Roll: 60 / 185 (Winner: Vampire)
Primary Guns: 27.4 cm / 34.0 cm (Winner: Vampire)
Secondary Guns: 10.0 cm / 0.0 cm (Winner: Lance)
Missiles: 10 hardpoints / 12 hardpoints (Winner: Vampire)
Torpedoes: 2 hardpoints / 4 hardpoints (Winner: Vampire)
Decoys: 24 / 48 (Winner: Vampire)
Fore Shield: 500 cm / 330 cm (Winner: Lance)
Aft Shield: 500 cm / 270 cm (Winner: Lance)
Front Armor: 300 cm / 350 cm (Winner: Vampire)
Side Armor: 300 cm / 350 cm (Winner: Vampire)
Rear Armor: 300 cm / 350 cm (Winner: Vampire)
Cloak: Yes (Tie)
Jump: Yes (Tie)
The *only* area where the Lance is superior is in its mounting of a secondary gun and its strong shields. The Vampire beats it on every other measurable specification.
(In the interests of keeping things fair, the 'background' fiction gives the Lance a mine launcher and a pair of Fusion Cannons. The Vampire gets a nose-mounted anti-missile mini-gun. None of these things are included in the above specifications.)