Reliance was the 1903 America’s Cup defender, the fourth defender from the famous designer Nat Herreshoff, and reportedly the largest gaff-rigged cutter ever built.
Reliance was designed to take full advantage of the Seawanhaka ’90-foot’ rating rule and was regarded as a “racing freak”, suitable only for use in certain conditions. The 1903 America’s Cup was the last to be raced according to the Seawanhaka rule.
Her design took advantage of a loophole in the Seawanhaka ‘90-foot’ rating rule, to produce a racing yacht with long overhangs at each end, so that when heeled over, her waterline length (and therefore her speed) increased dramatically.
To save weight, she was completely unfinished below deck, with exposed frames. She was the first racing boat to be fitted with winches below decks, in an era when her competitors relied on sheer man-power. Despite this she carried a crew of 64 for racing due to her large sail plan.
From the tip of her bowsprit to the end of her 108-foot (33 m) boom, Reliance measured 201 feet (61 m), and the tip of her mast was 199 feet (61 m) above the water (the height of a 20-story building). Everything else was to an equally gargantuan scale; her spinnaker pole was 84 feet (26 m) long, and her total sail area of 1,501 m2 (16,160 sq ft) was the equivalent of eight 12 meter class yachts.
Reliance was built for one purpose: to successfully defend the America’s Cup.