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Reliance (yacht)


Reliance (yacht)

Reliance crossing finish line August 25, 1903
Yacht club  New York Yacht Club
Nation  United States
Designer(s) Nathanael Greene Herreshoff
Builder Herreshoff Manufacturing Company
Launched 1903
Owner(s) Cornelius Vanderbilt III syndicate
Fate scrapped 1913
Racing career
Skippers Charlie Barr
Notable victories 1903 America's Cup
America's Cup 1903
Hull type Gaff cutter
Crew 64
Length LOA 201 ft 0 in (61.26 m)
LWL 90 ft 0 in (27.43 m)
Beam 26 ft 0 in (7.92 m)
Draft 20 ft 0 in (6.10 m)
Displacement 189 tons
Sail area 1,501 m2 (16,160 sq ft)

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.


  • Design 1
  • Career 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4
  • External links 5


Reliance passing the Brenton Reef light ship at high speed, 1903. Photograph by Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins.

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 (see image at left).

Reliance in drydock

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.[1]

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).[1] 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.[2]

Reliance was built for one purpose: to successfully defend the America's Cup.

Comparison of 87–90 ft America's Cup contenders:

Year LOA LWL Sail Area Mast height Displacement
Reliance 1903 43.89 m (144.0 ft) 27.43 m (90.0 ft) 1,501 m2 (16,160 sq ft) 67.05 m (220.0 ft) 189 tons
Ranger 1937 41.15 m (135.0 ft) 26.51 m (87.0 ft) 701 m2 (7,550 sq ft) 46.98 m (154.1 ft) 166 tons
KZ1 1988 36.57 m (120.0 ft) 27.43 m (90.0 ft) 627 m2 (6,750 sq ft) 46.78 m (153.5 ft) 39 tons
USA-17 2010 34.5 m (113 ft) 27.43 m (90.0 ft) 1,270 m2 (13,700 sq ft) 68 m (223 ft) 18 tons


Crew of Reliance

Her racing career was extraordinarily brief – and undefeated. She bested her America's Cup challenger, Sir Thomas Lipton's Shamrock III, designed by William Fife, in all three races, with Shamrock III losing by such a margin in the third that she was forced to retire.[4] Reliance‍ '​s designer, Nathanael Herreshoff, immediately proposed the Universal rating rule to avoid such extreme, dangerous and expensive vessels, which made Reliance an inadequate contestant in subsequent races. There was much speculation as to whether Reliance‍ '​s victory was due to the design of the yacht or the skill of Charlie Barr in sailing her. Lipton himself proposed to allow the two boats to swap crew after the race to decide the matter, but the offer was refused by the owners of Reliance.[5] Her very successful career was short-lived, and she was sold for scrap in 1913.


  1. ^ a b c Jacques Taglang (2005-04-01). "Reliance"Where are they now: 1903 - . 
  2. ^ "America's Cup Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2012-04-19. 
  3. ^ "Split the Difference". Evening Post. Volume LXXIV (Issue 79). 30 September 1907. 
  4. ^ "The Beginning (1851-1920)". Retrieved 2012-04-19. 
  5. ^ "Reliance Wins The Cup". The Dawson Record. 4 September 1903. Retrieved 2012-04-19. 

Further reading

  • N. L. Stebbins, W. H. Bunting, Steamers, Schooners, Cutters and Sloops: Marine Photographs of N. L. Stebbins Taken 1884-1907 (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1974)
  • Temple to the Wind - The Story of America's Greatest Naval Architect and His Masterpiece, Reliance by Christopher Pastore (Lyons Press 2005, ISBN 978-1-59228-557-0)

External links

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