Look out to The Solent this Cowes Week and you will not fail to spot the Royal Navy's HMS Ledbury, which is at anchor among all those tiny yachts setting out for a day of wind-powered racing (or at least, then there's enough wind).

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The oldest of eight Hunt-class Mine Counter Measures Vessels, the huge grey ship is on guard for the duration of the annual sailing regatta.

Commissioned in June 1981 and home to nearly 50 crew, HMS Ledbury is normally based in Portsmouth.

However, she arrived off the Isle of Wight this week after time spent in Scotland, Norway and the Middle East and she's causing quite a stir.

Isle of Wight County Press: On board HMS Ledbury, off Cowes.

Isle of Wight County Press: The Trinity House mooring, where HMS Ledbury is at anchor.

The County Press's Lucy Morgan was challenged to find her sea legs and hopped on the Isle of Wight's Jennie boats, for the short trip out to the Trinity House mooring.

Her reward for successfully scaling a steep rope ladder up the starboard side was to meet some of HMS Ledbury's crew, for whom Cowes Week is a chance to sample shore-side fun and to explain their day jobs to visitors and sailors.

On board, Navigating Officer Lieutenant Verity Evans explained: "We're the Guard Ship for Cowes - the navy's representative.

"We're here to support the sailing week in as many ways as we can.

"For us, that means we get to go to a few different cocktail parties and speak to the public.

"We can't complain!"

Isle of Wight County Press: HMS Ledbury.HMS Ledbury.

Isle of Wight County Press: ET Ruppulo, Navigating Officer Lieutenant Verity Evans and Leading Diver Xuereb on board HMS Ledbury, off Cowes.ET Ruppulo, Navigating Officer Lieutenant Verity Evans and Leading Diver Xuereb on board HMS Ledbury, off Cowes.

Verity's day job actually involves service in the Middle East and she flies out to Ledbury's sister ship, via Bahrain, in a month's time.

She is among those on a four month rotation, split between the UK and the Gulf.

She and her colleagues make sure sea lines and communications are kept clear.

For now though, it's Cowes Week that is keeping them all busy.

The world famous regatta is a familiar experience for HMS Ledbury's Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Sam Stephens.

A keen sailor, he said: "We're in a wonderful spot here, just off the Royal Yacht Squadron starting line. It's a great vantage point to watch the racing.

"I came to the Royal Navy from being a competitive yachtsman.

"I've competed here many times.

"It's lovely to be here - but it's slightly frustrating not to be racing!

"I know how frustrating it is to have ships in the middle of your startline. We're not going to move and get in anyone's way!"

Isle of Wight County Press: Commanding Office Lt Cmdr Sam Stephens.Commanding Office Lt Cmdr Sam Stephens.

Isle of Wight County Press: On board HMS Ledbury, off Cowes.

The Cowes Week Guard Ship tradition stretches back a long way.

"It's about having a Royal Navy warship guarding for when the Royal yacht was here," explains Lieutenant Commander Stephens.

"We're following on with that tradition - reigniting some of the important links between the Royal Navy and the sailing and maritime community."

Although The Solent is calm, the ship remains operational.

Combine that with the Covid-19 restrictions and it means not everyone gets to go ashore.

Leading Diver Xuereb is among those who must stay on the ship - but that does not mean he has missed out on the fun.

"I collected pizzas yesterday," he said, "but I'm not allowed ashore, because I'm part of the weapons system on board.

"I grew up in Gosport and know a lot about Cowes Week and it's a great opportunity for the ship.

"Those who have gone ashore have had a great time and it's great to show our presence.

"We're the Royal Navy for the people as well!"

"I've never felt more like a celebrity," said Verity.

"I'm standing on the back end, trying to do a quick workout, and everyone's waving.

"It's been really nice.

"One of the Mermaid Gin boats came right up to us and threw a few cans on board.

"We've lucked out with our position this week! I'm sure we're the envy of many other ships, based up in Scotland."

"We might not be the biggest ship in the fleet but we can turn up and look smart and it's been a great pleasure!"

Crewmate ET Ruppulo told the County Press: "HMS Ledbury's the oldest ship in the fleet.

"We do a lot of sea training in the vicinity, but this is the first time we've got a chance to get over the Island."

The ship is due a refit soon (think the addition of phone charging points, rather than a Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen style make-over) which will mean some extra home comforts.

Meanwhile, Sam, Verity and their colleagues will enjoy some downtime after Cowes Week, before a flight to warmer climes and a return to the day job.

Isle of Wight County Press: Cowes, Isle of Wight, from the deck of HMS Ledbury.