BOARD-SAILOR Lee Lai-shan made history yesterday by becoming the territory's first-ever world champion in an Olympic sport when she captured the world title in Kashiwasaki, Japan. The 23-year-old from Cheung Chau was third overnight but came through to lift the crown after second-place finishes in the two final races yesterday. ''This is certainly my happiest moment, the feeling is even greater than when I took the silver medal at the Beijing Asian Games,'' said an ecstatic Lee, known by her nickname of San San. ''It is also a personal victory for me. This is the first time I've finished ahead of Zhang Xiaodong and now I can proudly say I've beaten every top woman sailor in the world. Lee's historic achievement earned immediate praise from Hong Kong sports supremo A. de O. Sales, president of the Amateur Sports Federation and Olympic Committee. Sales: ''I think it is a tremendous achievement and is just reward for her outstanding dedication and discipline. ''I'm sure she will continue to carry Hong Kong colours in the year ahead with the added distinction of her achievement.'' The championship was threatened with abandonment on Thursday when the second round-robin series remained uncompleted because of windless conditions, but was saved when the race jury allowed the series to finish on Friday. Lee, fifth after the opening three-race series, came second in the next set of round-robin races and moved up to third overall - behind Frenchwoman Elena Draoulec and American Lanee Butler - going into yesterday's finals. The competitors were left stranded on the beach until just before noon yesterday until the winds eventually picked up. Draoulec dropped out of medal contention with a poor 19th place in the first final, won by Butler from Lee and France's former world champion Maud Herbert. The result saw Butler move to the top of the chart with Lee breathing down her neck. But disaster struck the American as she struggled to 11th place in the second final as Lee recorded another second-place finish in a race won by Herbert. That was the last result of the championship as the third final was called off due to poor light. Lee collected 11 penalty points, which was good enough for the gold medal as Butler finished with an aggregate of 18 penalty points. Herbert was also on 18 penalty points but lost out to Butler for the silver on a countback. China's former world champion Zhang, silver medallist behind New Zealander Barbara Kendall at the Barcelona Olympics, came fourth overall ahead of Draoulec. ''It was very lucky that the winds eventually came, and the conditions of 10 to 12 knots were exactly what I was hoping for,'' said Lee, a two-time Asian champion who also won the European title in June. ''I think luck had played a very important role in my victory, but of course my consistency was also a main factor.'' Lee will have to put her celebrations on hold, however, as she travels to Hiroshima today to bid for her third straight Asian title. She said: ''It is important for me to do well at the Asian Championships because that will be the venue for next year's Asian Games sailing events and it will give me a chance to see what the conditions there are like. ''But, most importantly, I'm keen to beat Zhang again.'' The victory confirmed her status as a dominant force in women's board-sailing since Mistral-class boards replaced the Lechner-class crafts for major events after last year's Olympics. Lee stunned the board-sailing world by winning three of the four major European events in May and June - the UK Eurolympics in England, the Kiel Week Regatta in Germany and the European Open in Belgium. Despite her excellent results on her European summer tour, Lee's family were surprised to learn of her success in Japan. ''We always thought she could finish high up the rankings but it never crossed our minds that she could win the gold,'' said her elder brother Bosco Lee Wai-ming. ''I knew she was in peak form, both mentally and physically, after doing so well in Europe but the competition in Japan was different. Zhang Xiaodong wasn't in Europe and San San had never beaten her before.'' Bruce Kendall, the 1988 Olympic champion, led a New Zealand one-two in the men's competition with Aaron McIntosh second. American Michael Gebhardt placed third and Hong Kong champion Sam Wong Tak-sum was 23rd overall. The 1994 world Mistral-class championships will be staged at the Lake Winnipeg resort of Gimli in Manitoba province, Canada.