Too often, glider pilots release their tow at some arbitrary, predetermined altitude while not yet where they need to be; or after passing through lift and leaving it behind; or (dumbest of all) in SINK… The smart thing to do is know what average climb rate to expect from your tug for a given atmospheric condition and then observe what you’re actually getting throughout the tow. You need a sustained minimum of at least 300 feet per minute more than the average towing climb rate to be sure of gaining altitude after release.
Those confident of their skills may choose to release as soon as staying aloft seems possible, just for the challenge, but beginners are wise to tow at least a little higher than necessary in case they fail to make good use of the first available lift. Otherwise, a pilot who fails on the first try might also be one who could use some extra landing practice…
If you see one or more sailplanes a few hundred feet higher, loitering but not climbing much, realize that the bottom of their lift could be still above you. Few things are more frustrating than falling out of zero sink from slightly below other ships that eventually climb away. Once on tow, most of the cost has already been incurred, so if you’e unsure (especially early in the tow) staying on a few seconds longer is usually a good idea.
Nonetheless, when you see others climbing blissfully it’s pointless to tow beyond them and pay to be taken somewhere else – perhaps even above the best lift. After all, soaring is the point of our sport, and towing higher than necessary defeats that lofty purpose altogether.
Finally, have a strategy that goes into effect as soon as the tow plane moves away. If you merely release in dead air and then wander off hoping for luck, you risk wasting much (or all) of your precious altitude before doing any real soaring.