Third Point's Ultra fund, the levered, or riskier, sister of Dan Loeb's flagship fund, is up about 39 percent as of late December, said two people familiar with the matter, buoyed by some of Loeb's classic event-driven investments, liked the cable provider Virgin Media, which he bought prior to its takeover by Liberty Global. Loeb also scored with some Japanese holdings like SoftBank and Sony Corp.—even though Sony management dismissed some of his suggested corporate changes—as well as names like Yahoo, and investments in structured credit.
(Read more: The 10 stocks that hedge funds love most)
Other major winners in 2013's markets, who handily beat the average hedge fund return of just north of 8 percent through late November, according to the firm Hedge Fund Research, include Nelson Peltz, David Tepper and Chris Pucillo, who runs Solus Alternative Asset. Management.
Through late December, Peltz's Trian main fund was up roughly 40 percent, according to one investor, Tepper's Palomino Fund was up a reported 38 percent through late November. And on Tuesday, Solus' main fund, Sola, was up roughly 31 percent, said someone familiar with the matter.
—By CNBC's Kate Kelly. Follow her on Twitter @KateKellyCNBC.