Guiseley's Debbie Flood marked her return to international rowing by winning a gold medal at the World Rowing Championships in New Zealand.

The 30-year-old, who took a year out in 2009 to concentrate on her careeer in the prison service, was part of the new-look Great Britain crew that powered to victory in the women's quad.

The team of Flood, Annabel Vernon, Frances Houghton and Beth Rodford seemed to bide their time in the first half of today's final as strong cross winds made for brutal racing conditions.

The defending champions Ukraine went out to a half length lead over Britain in the early phases in a bold attempt to wrest the advantage and hang onto the title they won last year in Poznan. By 500m Great Britain were 1.41 seconds behind.

From 750m onwards, sculling in a controlled and powerful rhythm the British quartet made up ground.

At halfway they were only 0.5 seconds down. The tipping point came at 600m to go when the Great Britain boat rowed through the Ukraine and at 1500m they were ahead by 1.48 seconds - a margin that proved unassailable giving Flood her third World Championship gold medal.

In contrats Rodford was winning her first world championships medal.

There was a huge sense of satisfaction for Vernon, Houghton and Flood, who were all disappointed to be pipped for the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Flood said: “We didn’t want to be down after the start as that is one of our strengths but we didn’t panic - we held our composure and our self-belief.

"We knew we had a good rhythm from the outset and that would carry us through. I was just praying in the last 200m that we wouldn’t catch a crab".

"What fabulous gold medal", said David Tanner, GB Rowing's Performance Director. "What a huge step up thar was for the women's quad who were so clever in their race, exhibiting their skill and discipline."

The crew had shown its potential on Monday when it won its heat to qualify for the finals.

The British quartet took an early lead in their heat with only one qualifying place for the final on offer. They led at 500m against an experienced German crew with New Zealand – a newly formed crew – in third.

Germany made a push at 800m and drew almost level at halfway. Just 0.12 seconds separated the crews at this point.

A phase then developed when the two crews punched and counter-punched trying to get ahead.

Germany had the lead for around 400m before the British came back through them to take a canvas lead and, despite intense pressure, they held on to win in 6.15.62 – just a tenth of a second ahead of the Germans.

With only the winners progressing straight through to the final, it was an important victory for the British crew, which was only put together just over a month ago after it was decided Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins would concentrate on the double sculls instead.

Houghton, who has been recovering from hip surgery, and Flood, who spent a year out to concentrate on her career in the prison service, therefore returned to the boat in which they won silver at the Beijing Olympics.

Vernon said: “I think the crew was finalised about six weeks ago so it has been a very intense preparation, but that keeps it interesting.

“We all train with each other day in day out, we’ve all raced each other hundreds of times before – Debbie and Fran have been rowing together in quads since quads racing was invented pretty much. It’s been great, I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Flood, has now won win three World Championship gold medals to add to the two Olympic silver medals she won at Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.

At the 2006 World Championships, Flood originally finished in the silver medal position in the quadruple sculls, but was elevated to gold after one of the Russian crew members failed a drugs test.

A year later she won gold when Great Britain took first place in Munich.