Richard credits crew with win

Published 12:04 am Monday, October 22, 2007

NATCHEZ — Winning first place in a balloon race takes more than just a pilot — it takes a crew.

When George Richard was awarded first place overall for the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race at Sunday morning’s ceremony, he congratulated his chase crew, as well.

“It’s a team sport,” Baton Rouge resident Richard said afterward. “In (Saturday morning’s) race, I made the target three minutes before the race closed, thanks to the efficiency of my crew.”

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Richard, who has flown in the Natchez races for 18 years, said he simply enjoys the experience.

“It’s always fun to come to Natchez and the balloon race,” he said. “It’s fun to win, of course. I’m very competitive. But Natchez is such a nice place to be, and the people are very friendly.”

Richard said he was in good company, among champion pilots, and didn’t take his win for granted.

“Ballooning is like any sport. You have to practice. You have to go to a lot of other competitions to perfect your skills. You can’t go to one race and expect to win.

“Most of the pilots here are capable of winning first place,” he said.

The difference is finding the right takeoff point and having a good game plan, he said.

“If you follow a good game plan, it’s easy to hit the target,” he said. If you don’t, it’s a struggle to get back in the race.”

Richard was in charge of the Baton Rouge balloon festival in August, he said, and he recognizes how much work dedicated volunteers put into the Natchez races.

“Without them, there would be no race in Natchez,” he said. “It means a lot to all the pilots to be able to participate and energize the community.”