"Reliance" was the successful defending yacht of the 1903 America's Cup, representing the New York Yacht Club (NYYC). She was designed by Nathanael Herreshoff for a syndicate of NYYC members managed by C. Oliver Iselin, and was the fourth America's Cup winner to be designed by Herreshoff.
Reliance was designed according to the Seawanhaka rule which allowed yachts of different designs to race together by rating their performance based on various measurements, and imposing a maximum waterline length. Herreshoff exploited this rule to create a yacht with long overhangs whose overall length was considerably greater than her waterline length, creating the effect of a much longer yacht when heeled over. She employed many innovations as well as the largest sail-plan ever seen on a single masted vessel at that time.
Her challenger for the 1903 America's Cup was Shamrock III, entered by Sir Thomas Lipton through the Royal Ulster Yacht Club. Reliance won all races during the Cup under the command of Captain Charlie Barr, Captain Barrs third America's Cup win.
Reliance raced successfully from her creation in 1903 until her desctruction in 1913, when she was broken up for scrap. Following the 1903 America's cup the Seawanhaka rule was abandoned and Reliance is still known as one of the most extreme Cup contenders of all time.
In August 1902 the RUYC, on behalf of Sir Thomas Lipton, issued a challenge for the America's Cup, held by the NYYC since 1851, to take place the following year. Soon after a committee to oversee the defense of the Cup was appointed by the NYYC consisting of eight of the wealthiest members of the club who would be required to finance the operation, including William Rockefeller of Standard Oil, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Elbert Gary of the United States Steel Corporation, Clement Griscom of the International Mercantile Marine Co., Peter Widener, and James Hill of the Great Northern Railway.
Although Lipton had advocated for a change in the regulations to permit more modestly priced vessels to be used in America's Cup races there would be no change for the 1903 race and as the list of millionaires shows the NYYC were ready to meet Lipton, himself a multi-millionaire, head on. An order was placed with Nathanael Herreshoff, known as 'the Wizard of Bristol' for his success in building race winning yachts, with the Herreshoff-designed Defender and Colombia having won the previous three America's Cup races.
Herreshoff, like Lipton, was an advocate of a different system of regulations to encourage more moderately priced yachts to compete for the America's Cup, and had previously stated his intention to retire from America's Cup yacht building. Nevertheless Herreshoff agreed to design the latest defender and in October 1902 Reliance began as Design 605 with the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company.