Standing on the bank of the River Derwent, a small girl’s eyes lit up and her smile widened as a Royal Australian Navy warship sailed towards the Tasman Bridge to take part in the Royal Hobart Regatta.

She had never seen anything quite like it – a towering grey vessel that provided a powerful backdrop for the annual event.

Almost 20 years later, that same girl on February 7 proudly stood on the deck of HMAS Hobart as the guided missile destroyer entered the River Derwent for the same event.

“I would look out at the ship as it arrived and just admire it,” Able Seaman Harriet Shepperd said of that first sighting of a Navy warship.

“Now, I am standing in the position I used to admire when I was five – and it fills me with an incredible sense of pride, and I know my family is so proud.”

HMAS Hobart at anchor in the River Derwent for the Royal Hobart Regatta. Photo: Warrant Officer Class 2 Max Bree

Able Seaman Shepperd grew up in Ferntree on Mount Wellington, Tasmania, and joined the Navy in 2016 after attending an ADF open day in Hobart.

Effectively joining on the spot, she has gone on to become a combat systems operator – anti-submarine/surface tactical aircraft controller.

This is the second time she has visited her hometown aboard HMAS Hobart. It is also the second time the ship has visited the Tasmanian capital.

Able Seaman Shepperd's father, Matthew, was also involved in the Regatta as Hobart sailed in.

“The Regatta is a big family tradition – we would go out on the boat every year and participate in all the events,” Able Seaman Shepperd said.

“My fondest memory is all the boats in the river, and having a huge water fight.

“They would spend hours before sailing filling up water balloons. You needed a good aim to splash the other boats. We did this every year.”

Mr Shepperd has been participating in Regatta water events for the past 30 years, including the keelboat race.

This year, he watched on from the family boat in the River Derwent, waving to his daughter as she stood with her shipmates.

“It was very special for our family. I am very proud of Harriet,” Mr Shepperd said.

“It is also great to see Commander Andrew Pepper in command of HMAS Hobart. We went to the same school, St Virgil’s College. It’s a small world.”

Information about the Regatta can be found at www.royalhobartregatta.com