Local hero pumps his way to a clean sweep

THREE-TIME Hong Kong champion Sam Wong Tak-sum confirmed his status as the territory's number one sailboarder by winning all three races in the opening day of the Mobil Hong Kong Circuit off Cheung Chau Island yesterday.

The former Asian champion outclassed 69 competitors from the six regional teams as he capitalised on his superior fitness and pumped his way to victory in very light wind.

The breeze was so gentle that officials almost had to call off the two afternoon races which were eventually held over a shortened course after a two-hour delay.

Wong's clean sweep of the three IMCO board races virtually assured him of the Cheung Chau leg. Only two more races have been scheduled for today and the top 20 finishers also qualify for the short course Funboard Cup event.

''I'm very happy with my performance,'' said 28-year-old Wong. ''I'm physically in top form now and I'm hopeful of winning the other two races tomorrow to clinch the Cheung Chau title with an unbeaten record.'' Hong Kong teenage international Anthony Lau Chun-ho holds second position overnight with two second-place finishes and one fourth - ahead of women's world champion Lee Lai-shan.

Lee, born and bred on Cheung Chau Island, enjoyed no advantage sailing on home waters because of the light winds. She was also recovering from a bout of influenza.

''I've recently caught a cold and still haven't fully recovered my fitness,'' said the 23-year-old IMCO world champion, who was fourth in the opening race and finished third in the two afternoon races.

''The light winds don't help and the IMCO board made it worse for me because it is weaker in speed than the old race-board and the men, because of their stronger physique, have the advantage when it comes to pumping.

''Anyway, I'm not too disappointed with my performance because I don't worry too much about the local races. My primary objective this year is to do well at the Hiroshima Asian Games.'' The IMCO board, which was made the official race-board for all major championships last year, is being used for the first time in Hong Kong's domestic competition.

Lee welcomed the board's introduction as she said it would give her more opportunity to familiarise herself with the equipment which will be used at the Asian and Olympic Games.